Also published on this date: Thursday, May 28, 2020: Kids' Maximum Shelf: The Barnabus Project

Shelf Awareness for Thursday, May 28, 2020

Atlantic Monthly Press: Those Opulent Days: A Mystery by Jacquie Pham

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber

Carolrhoda Lab (R): Here Goes Nothing by Emma K Ohland

Allida: Safiyyah's War by Hiba Noor Khan

Ace Books: Servant of Earth (The Shards of Magic) by Sarah Hawley


NAIBA, SIBA Plan Joint Fall Conference; MPIBA Conference Going Virtual

The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, which had both decided to make their fall conferences virtual this year, will put on a joint virtual show that will run September 21-25.

Called New Voices, New Rooms (a nod to Truman Capote, who had roots in both the NAIBA and SIBA areas), the show will feature "a fresh format spanning five days, crafted with care to answer the community's call for shared spaces, networking, discovery of new titles and bookselling best practices, and plain old fun!" The associations emphasized that "booksellers, publishers, authors, and other industry partners will gather in intimate and large virtual rooms offering creative, customizable programming not possible at in-person shows."

Eileen Dengler, executive director of NAIBA, and Linda-Marie Barrett, executive director of SIBA, are brainstorming about new and creative ideas for programming and want to hear from booksellers and publishers about their desires, expectations, and possible challenges involving a virtual show format. Comments can be sent to them here.


The Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Fall Conference will be held virtually October 8-10. The FallCon had been scheduled to take place in Denver, Colo.

Details on the revised program, which will include a virtual exhibit hall, will be announced soon. MPIBA added: "Booksellers, save the dates! This year, without travel expenses and scheduling concerns, we hope to see everyone attend the show!"

PM Press: P Is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book by Golbarg Bashi, Illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi

'Special Edition' Frankfurt Book Fair Is On

The Frankfurt Book Fair will be held in October 14-18, but will be "a special edition," combining on-site programming with a greatly expanded digital side, the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels, the German book trade association, which owns and runs the fair, announced. The in-person fair will take place with "a detailed health and hygiene plan" that will reflect requirements of the State of Hesse, "guaranteeing the safety of visitors, exhibitors and staff attending the fair."

The fair expects exhibitors from throughout Europe to participate in the event, and, depending on future travel restrictions, from other continents, too. Details about programming will be available at the end of June.

"This year, it is more important than ever that Frankfurter Buchmesse takes place," Juergen Boos, director of the book fair, said. "Thanks to activities on the fairgrounds and to book events on site and virtually, we are putting a spotlight on our authors, industry and trends."

Siegmar Mosdorf, chairman of the Börsenverein's supervisory board, added that the book fair is "the showcase for the international book industry, which is one of the reasons why it has become increasingly popular in recent years--not only with trade visitors and for the rights business, but also with readers. It has become an international forum for intellectual exchange. We want to make use of this potential for discourse despite the pandemic, maintaining it on behalf of the book industry and its future."

The fair will take up much less space and feature larger booths with more space in front of them:

This year's planned fair will use only six floors of exhibit space (the first two floors of Halls 3, 4 and 6). The smallest booths will be 8 square meters (about 86 square feet), and most booths will be enlarged at no extra cost. Each booth will have 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) of walkway space in front of the booth as a "communication space." The width of the walkways in the halls is between 6 and 8 meters (20 and 27 feet). Most of the open stages scattered throughout the fair will be replaced by digital versions or more widely spaced locations.

The number of attendees permitted onto the fairgrounds will be determined by the amount of exhibit space used. Attendees will be "admitted contactless after they have preregistered and provided a self-assessment of their state of health."

As for the virtual side of the fair, the Börsenverein is planning a range of events, including BOOKFEST Centre, from which the fair and media partners will present new publications and authors and initiate related discussions.

The major German trade publishers--Verlagsgruppe Random House, Bonnier, Holtzbrinck, and Bastei Lübbe--are working with the book fair to create new types of events.

This year's guest of honor is Canada. The book fair said it is "in discussion" with the Department of Canadian Heritage about creating an approach "adapted to the current situation."

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

BookExpo Online: Adult Book and Author Dinner

At last night's Adult Book and Author Dinner during the 2020 virtual Book Expo, four women authors spoke of the importance of writing as a means of survival and validation (unfortunately, Representative Ilan Omar, author of This Is What America Looks Like, published this week by Dey Street Books, was unable to join).

Zerlina Maxwell

Political analyst Zerlina Maxwell, host of the weekly radio show Signal Boost on SiriusXM and author of The End of White Politics: How to Heal Our Liberal Divide (Hachette, July 7), started by answering the question she's often asked: "What is the end of white politics?" She said, quite simply, "Politics" and explained it's "the end of a central and solitary focus on white voters." White voters will be a minority by 2045; in California, they are already a minority. Having worked as a field organizer for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, she noted that 4.4 million people who voted for President Obama stayed home or were suppressed during the 2016 election. One third of those were Black: "There were one million Black voters who did not turn out." Though the graphics and pie charts for white voters were nuanced, she, as a college-educated Black woman, was left out. They have charts breaking down working-class white men, college-educated women and suburban women--"these are all white," Maxwell pointed out. But the Black vote and Latino vote are each just one category. If Democrats want to win, she argued, they need a more nuanced understanding of voters. Maxwell said she joined the Clinton campaign "because I saw the threat of Donald Trump from really far away."

Joy Harjo

A member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo spoke of the importance of her work on When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry (Norton, $19.95, August 25). When she started attending the Modern Language Association conference, the African Americans, Asian Americans and Chicano ("as we called them then," said she) and Latino all had their own editors and critics. But there were no Native editors and critics. She brought in students Leanne Howe and Jennifer Foerster to help her gather the more than 167 Native American poets for this 350-page anthology. The oldest is Eleazer, a 17th-century poet from the Northeast; the newest is Navajo poet Jake Skeets, a 2020 Whiting Award winner from Tsaile, Ariz.

Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado, a 2017 National Book Award finalist for Her Body and Other Parties, makes her comics debut with The Low, Low Woods (DC Comics, September 29). "Certain comics have been formative for me, that have changed my temperature." A series called Saga made her feel that way. "I thought, 'How does one create that sort of dimensionality and space?' I wanted readers to feel transported the way that I'd felt." Machado was also thinking about a comics series called Strangers in Paradise, which she called "very queer and had beautiful body positive characters in it. I read it in my 20s and it blew my mind."

She so enjoyed figuring out how to frame a story visually that she is now writing a screenplay. She described comics as "a rigid structure. There's only so much prose you can fit on a page. I thrive on structure." She's now at work on a collection of linked stories.

Rebecca Roanhorse

Rebecca Roanhorse, the adopted daughter of an African American father and an Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo mother, said she did what Toni Morrison had exhorted, by "writing the story I wanted to see in the world." She explained, "Writing for me is an act of survival." Her second novel, Black Sun (Gallery, $27.99, October 13), takes the Western idea of a hero's journey--where the hero leaves home, has adventures and returns--and turns it on its head. She explained that in Indigenous culture, the hero starts on the outside and spirals inward, finding their way back to home: "My four characters are on that journey home." --Jennifer M. Brown

Shelf Awareness Delivers Indie Pre-Order E-Blast

Yesterday, Shelf Awareness sent the second of our monthly pre-order e-blasts to more than 400,000 of the country's best book readers. The e-blast went to 408,287 customers of 77 participating independent bookstores.

The mailing features eight upcoming titles selected by Shelf Awareness editors and a sponsored title. Customers can buy these books via "pre-order" buttons that lead directly to the purchase page for the title on each sending store's website. A key feature is that bookstore partners can easily change title selections to best reflect the tastes of their customers and can customize the mailing with links, images and promotional copy of their own.

The pre-order e-blasts are sent the last Wednesday of each month; the next will go out on Wednesday, June 24. Stores interested in learning more can visit our program registration page or contact our partner program team via e-mail.

For a sample of yesterday's pre-order e-blast, see this one from WORD Bookstores, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jersey City, N.J.

How Bookstores Are Coping: Crowdfunding, Cautious Returns

A $10,000 GoFundMe drive set up earlier this month by supporters of Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, Phoenix, Ariz., is nearing its goal, with more than $8,000 raised thus far. Friends of Palabras launched the crowd-funder to help owner Rosaura "Chawa" Magaña cover operating expenses like rent, utilities and inventory at the store, which has been temporarily shuttered since mid-March due to the Covid-19 crisis.

"Creating a safe space is important to me personally because I have been in many spaces where I did not feel safe to share and I did not feel valued and respected," said Magaña. "Creating a space where the community can express themselves openly and honestly provides opportunities for healing and growth."

That approach inspired 22 people to sign a letter nominating Magaña for the Arizona Humanities 2020 Rising Star Award, which she'll receive during a ceremony later this year if public health conditions allow, New Times wrote.

Miriam Antonieta Carpenter-Cosand, another supporter who's working to help Palabras survive the challenges posed by the novel coronavirus, also wrote a nomination letter. She said that Palabras is "the only space where I feel confident to be myself and express my identity. It's really important that we keep this space open for everyone."


In a letter to customers, Connie Brooks, owner of Battenkill Books, Cambridge, N.Y., expressed gratitude for all the support the bookshop received during the Covid-19 lockdown. "We could not have made it through the past nine tumultuous weeks without your support," she wrote. "I took over the bookstore in 2009 at the height of the recession, then we made it through the launch of the Kindle and the closing of Borders, but this has been, without a doubt, the most challenging point in my tenure as owner of the bookstore. And yet, time and again, I am reminded of the importance of books to people's lives. To your lives! Our books have kept you company on this journey--they have transported you, provided solace, filled up downtime, and been a constant in a time of flux."

In terms of reopening, Brooks noted that "our region has been approved to begin a measured reopening for so-called Phase One businesses. We are a Phase One business, so this means several things for us. One, we have begun to welcome our fabulous booksellers back to the store. Two, we continue to offer curbside pickup in our 'book cooler' out front, and shipping options. We are also starting to look forward to Phase Two and what that will mean for us. If the move into Phase Two goes well for our region, we will be looking at reopening sometime in early June, albeit in a limited capacity.

"We are also cooking up some creative ways to stay connected with you this summer (for example by offering Zoom storytime for the little ones and Zoom read-aloud sessions for older kids), so stay tuned, and let us know if there are ways we can be supporting you right now. And until we see you in person again, please continue to support us through your online, email and phone orders!"


"After a LOT of preparation and a quiet soft opening," novel. bookstore, Memphis, Tenn., is "finally open for browsing. BUT. There are rules, of course," including masks required for both staff and customers, limiting visits to 45 minutes ("hold off on those all-day browsing sessions for now so we can serve more people while we are open"), lots of hand sanitizer throughout the store, frequent cleaning/sanitizing, and markers on the floor to help distance while waiting in line.

Noting that "things look a little different for now, but it is all worth it to be able to see you again," novel. wrote: "We are thrilled to be able to welcome you back into our space after what feels like an eternity--we appreciate everything you all have done to keep us going, and we will definitely need your continued support as we work through this reopening and beyond. See you soon!"


The Sly Fox bookstore, Virden, Ill., will open for browsing, consistent with the Governor Pritzker's guidelines. Under restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the store, which will mark its 22nd anniversary in July, has been selling by phone and online, as well as doing curbside pickup and home deliveries.

"I expect a trickle, not a deluge," said owner George Rishel. "I rarely have more than one customer in the store at any one time, unless they are family members who come together. I have masks, gloves, sanitizers, wipes, and a sneeze guard. At 76, I need to protect myself as well as customers."

Rishel anticipates "in-store traffic during the first part of the summer to be slow. And online traffic has already started to decline. Maybe things will pick up with the Stephenie Meyer book and the postponed Rowley Jefferson book in early August. This fall will call for more attention to merchandising. And in addition to being a bookseller, I expect I may have to also become a personal shopper, something indies do well."

New Owners for Oregon's Bookloft

Katy Madrid and Becky Wyland are the new owners of the Bookloft, Enterprise, Ore., which includes a café and art gallery, the Wallowa County Chieftain reported. They bought the store from Mary Swanson, who has owned the Bookloft for 32 years and who said of Madrid and Wyland, "I feel really confident about them. It's a good move."

Wyland, who has worked for more than a decade for public health nonprofits, will be full-time in the store. Madrid, who recently retired after working for the federal government for 30 years, most recently as the geospatial area manager for the Wallowa Whitman National Forest, will handle computer operations and help in the store. Madrid likes to read biography, nonfiction and short stories. Wyland prefers history, historical fiction, general fiction, sci-fi and fantasy.

Madrid and Wyland became interested in taking over the store last December. As the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in the U.S., Madrid recalled, "We thought we'd be scared, and that everyone would think we were crazy. But everyone was really supportive. They kept saying 'Everyone drinks coffee and reads books and wants to have a place locally where they can do all that. You'll be fine.' "

Wyland added: "You see the stories where Amazon's profits have really gone through the roof. But you also see the other side of it where more and more people really want to support small local businesses."

The new owners aim to retain the store's character and make a few small changes, including creating more of an online presence for the store.

For her part, Swanson said she aims to start reading the many books she's missed in the past 32 years running the store. "My house is full of books," she said. "I haven't had time to read hardly any of them." She also wants to do volunteer work and garden.

Obituary Note: Harry Hoffman

Harry Hoffman, who successively built Ingram Book Company and Waldenbooks into industry powerhouses in the 1970s and '80s, died on May 20 at age 92.

In 1968, Hoffman was hired by Bronson Ingram to run the Tennessee Book Depository, the part of Ingram Industries that supplied books to libraries and schools. As federal funding for libraries and schools was being cut, Hoffman began selling to stores as Ingram Book Company, which he built into what is the largest bookstore wholesaler in the country.

After 10 years at Ingram, Hoffman became president and CEO of Waldenbooks, which operated bookstores in malls. In his 13 years as head of Walden, he increased the number of its stores to almost 1,300 from 500 and quadrupled sales. After his departure, Walden was eventually merged into and rebranded as Borders stores.

Hoffman was well-known for his charisma, strong opinions on how books should be published and marketed--and for living half the year on a sailboat in Long Island Sound, near Walden headquarters in Stamford, Conn.

Hoffman had an unusual life before joining the book world. He was a paratrooper with the 11th Airborne Division and an FBI agent, and then worked at Procter & Gamble, Bell & Howell and Demco, a library and school supply company, before joining Ingram.

In lieu of flowers, his family requests donations be sent to Room to Read, 465 California St., Suite 1000, San Francisco, Calif. 94104.


Customer Note of the Day: Northshire Bookstore

"This amazing note came yesterday with a check. It's the little things that make it all worth it," Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt., posted on Facebook. The note reads: "Please use this for your Covid-19 fund or whatever else you think best to keep Northshire Bookstore the very special place it is. Thank you for all you do!"


Bookshop Bunny (Unintended): Boulder Book Store

"We had a furry visitor today!" Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colo., posted on Facebook. "Thankfully we were able to gently encourage him to return to the courtyard after a quick browse through our children’s books!"

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Trevor Noah on Colbert's Late Show

Late Show with Stephen Colbert repeat: Trevor Noah, author of It's Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Adapted for Young Readers) (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 9780525582168).

This Weekend on Book TV: Author Commencement Addresses

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, May 30
1:30 p.m. Sarah Jaffe, author of Work Won't Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone (Bold Type Books, $28, 9781568589398).

4:30 p.m. Noah Feldman, author of The Arab Winter: A Tragedy (Princeton University Press, $22.95, 9780691194929), at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass. (Re-airs Monday at 1:05 a.m.)

5:30 p.m. Melville House co-publisher Dennis Johnson, Jessica Bagnulo, co-owner of Greenlight Bookstore, and Johnny Temple, publisher at Akashic Books, discuss bookselling and publishing during the coronavirus lockdown. (Re-airs Sunday at 9:30 a.m.)

6 p.m. Random House authors Martha Stewart, Wes Moore, David Brooks, Anna Quindlen, George Saunders, Reshma Saujani, Donovan Livingston, and Lauren Graham give virtual commencement addresses for the graduating class of 2020. (Re-airs Sunday at 10:05 p.m.)

Sunday, May 31
12:30 a.m. Richard Haass, author of The World: A Brief Introduction (Penguin Press, $28, 9780399562396). (Re-airs Sunday at 3:20 p.m.)

1:30 a.m. Robert Scoop Jackson, author of The Game Is Not a Game: The Power, Protest and Politics of American Sports (Haymarket Books, $16.95, 9781642590968). (Re-airs Sunday at 1:50 p.m.)

12 p.m. Ted Widmer, author of Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781476739434).

1:05 p.m. Eric Foner, author of The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution (Norton, $26.95, 9780393652574). (Re-airs Monday at 2:10 a.m.)

4:20 p.m. Katie Roiphe, author of The Power Notebooks (Free Press, $27, 9781982128012).

6:25 p.m. Eduardo Porter, author of American Poison: How Racial Hostility Destroyed Our Promise (Knopf, $26.95, 9780451494887).

11:05 p.m. Neil Shubin, author of Some Assembly Required: Decoding Four Billion Years of Life, from Ancient Fossils to DNA (Pantheon, $26.95, 9781101871331).

Books & Authors

Awards: 2020 Boston Globe-Horn Book Winners

Roger Sutton, editor-in-chief of the Horn Book, announced the 2020 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards to kick off SLJ's Day of Dialogue.

In the Picture Book category, the winner is Saturday (Little, Brown) by Oge Mora. The two picture book honor books are Birdsong (Greystone) by Julie Flett and Pokko and the Drum (S&S)by Matthew Forsythe.

In the Fiction category, the winner is King and the Dragonflies (Scholastic) by Kacen Callender. The two fiction honor books are Clap When You Land (Quill Tree/Harper) by Elizabeth Acevedo and When You Trap a Tiger (Random House) by Tae Keller.

The Nonfiction winner is Infinite Hope (Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum/S&S) by Ashley Bryan. The two nonfiction honor books are It Began with a Page (Harper/HarperCollins) by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad; and Ordinary Hazards (Wordsong/Boyds Mills) by Nikki Grimes.

Sutton said an October date for a virtual awards ceremony will be announced at a later time.

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, June 2:

Surviving Autocracy by Masha Gessen (Riverhead, $26, 9780593188934), from the 2017 National Book Award for Nonfiction winner, explores the recent rise of authoritarianism in the United States.

Clean Hands: A Novel by Patrick Hoffman (Atlantic Monthly Press, $26, 9780802129536) is a thriller about missing documents used to blackmail a law firm.

All of Us: A Novel of Suspense by A.F. Carter (Mysterious Press, $26, 9780802149435) stars six characters sharing one body.

The House on Fripp Island by Rebecca Kauffman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, 9780358274285) follows two families vacationing off the coast of South Carolina.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow (Tor Teen, $17.99, 9781250315328) is a debut in which a young woman must hide that she is a siren.

Smart George by Jules Feiffer (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780062790996) is the 20-year-later picture book follow-up to Bark, George.

The Cowboy Meets His Match by Jessica Clare (Berkley, $7.99, 9780593101988).

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 Knockout Queen: A Novel by Rufi Thorpe (Knopf, $26.95, 9780525656784). "To say I admire The Knockout Queen feels inadequate, though I do admire a great deal of it: its voice, depth, structure--you name it. But it's more honest just to say I love The Knockout Queen; I loved reading it, I felt involved in it, and, finally, I was so moved by its ending. This is an epic tale of friendship, one where the magnitude sneaks up on you quietly--but when it strikes home, it rings so brilliantly true." --Will Walton, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Book of V.: A Novel by Anna Solomon (Holt, $27.99, 9781250257017). "Astounding! In the talented hands of Anna Solomon, the lives of three women in different eras come to life with equal vibrancy. A compelling look at the roles of women through time (ancient Persia, 1970s D.C., and Brooklyn in 2016), as well as what it means to have and use power and to feel safe in a relationship. So much material here for discussion. I cannot wait to put this into the hands of our readers!" --Caitlin Doggart, Where the Sidewalk Ends Bookstore, Chatham, Mass.

Rules for Visiting: A Novel by Jessica Francis Kane (Penguin Books, $17, 9780525559245). "A skillful writer can show how things that seem unrelated are actually intertwined. In this way, Kane quietly reminds us that friendships and plants may be deeply rooted but need tending to bloom completely, that words matter, that going back to their roots may change how we think about what we say, and that a quiet life can be a full one. This gentle book grows on you (the puns just keep coming), but it is a refreshing change from the stresses of our digital age or the angst of so many recent books about contemporary life. Entertaining and erudite, I highly recommend this book." --Ann Carlson, Waterfront Books, Georgetown, S.C.

For Ages 4 to 8
A New Kind of Wild by Zara Gonzalez Hoang (Dial Books, $17.99, 9780525553892). "A New Kind of Wild is the best kind of picture book, a tale told with heart and illustrated in lush, whimsical technicolor. The story in these pages is about leaving everything you know behind and struggling to find joy away from the place you call home. I love that I recognized Puerto Rico from page one, a place so many of our local readers call home, and I can't wait to proudly have this on our shelves. Zara Gonzalez Hoang is a dazzling new talent and I can't wait to see what she does next." --Cristina Russell, Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla.

For Ages 9 to 12
The Imaginaries: Little Scraps of Larger Stories by Emily Winfield Martin (Random House, $18.99, 9780553511031). "Beautiful, whimsical, and ethereal are the thoughts and illustrations that make up The Imaginaries. At once a book of story starters and idea encouragers, The Imaginaries could also serve as a most intriguing coffee table art book. Emily Winfield Martin just never disappoints!" --Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, N.C.

For Teen Readers: An Indies Introduce Title
The Silence of Bones by June Hur (Feiwel & Friends, $17.99, 9781250229557). "I was struck by the depth of this gripping story. Seol's quest for answers about her past is a fascinating counterpoint to her investigation into a grisly murder. The meditative quality of the narration of this historical mystery felt perfectly suited to the Korean setting and the backdrop of political and religious struggles. Seol's courage, curiosity, and dedication make her a character I can't get enough of. Let's hope this is the start of a series." --Tegan Tigani, Queen Anne Book Company, Seattle, Wash.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Destination Wedding

Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu (Ballantine , $27 hardcover, 304p., 9780525577126, June 30, 2020)

What starts as seemingly light reading featuring New York family and friends headed to an Indian wedding morphs into a spectacularly entertaining examination of race, privilege, hybrid identity, family dysfunction and maybe even a love story or five. Living in Mumbai and New York City, Diksha Basu, who used her home city of Delhi to immense success in her 2017 debut, The Windfall, returns with the dazzling Destination Wedding.

Tina Das is still single at 32 and has plateaued at her television producing job. While her flight to her cousin's almost week-long nuptial celebration is delayed, she's waiting in the airport lounge with her BFF-since-Yale-days Marianne, her divorced parents Neel and Radha--and her mother's boyfriend David Smith (everyone always uses his full name). Upon arriving in Delhi, the extended family is luxuriously accommodated at a posh country club in oversize private cottages with onsite staff, including chauffeured Mercedes.

In between mandatory festivities, amorous--and otherwise--adventures await the travelers. Marianne, whose partner elected to stay home, is enjoying the groom's brother's attention way too much. Neel anticipates a matchmaking service-enabled date with widowed Mrs. Sethi. Radha hopes she might reconnect with Tina, who has never stopped resenting her for the divorce a decade ago. David Smith is adding to his culinary future by exploring local fare for his fusion restaurant. And then there's Tina herself: in between watching the parading hubbub, she's got plenty of drama balancing supposed-to-be-maybe-work with Sid, the gorgeous personal trainer from the Mumbai slums she hoped to cast for a series that went awry (who just happens to be in Delhi), and trying not to fall (again) for the charming Australian expat who already dissed her in London. What a week this will turn out to be.

Basu, who previously made keeping up with the Joneses Jhas bitingly insightful, gives a similar eyebrow-arch to her characters here. In addition to the main cast, Basu's clever insertions revealing momentary glimpses into the lives of passing strangers--because everyone has a worthy story!--are especially affecting: a driver whose past record is hardly clear, a young lover searching for privacy in public with her boyfriend, the butler's off-hours afterlife, Mrs. Sethi's grumpy dessert-loving cook, a panhandler who stole the wheelchair that is his best prop, the bartender's girlfriend who's already someone else's mistress. Basu balances the haves and have-nots--both socioeconomically and emotionally--with deft assurance and expert timing. Her astute, often scathing, commentaries beneath the irresistible humor transform her fiction into a must-go literary destination. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Diksha Basu's sophomore title, Destination Wedding, provides the perfect balance between hilariously entertaining and ingeniously divulging.

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