Shelf Awareness for Thursday, March 18, 2021

Yen Press: The God of Nishi-Yuigahama Station by Takeshi Murase, Translated by Guiseppe Di Martino

Peachtree Publishers: Erno Rubik and His Magic Cube by Kerry Aradhya, Illustrated by Kara Kramer

Beacon Press: Kindred by Octavia Butler

Inkshares: Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

Tundra Books: On a Mushroom Day by Chris Baker, Illustrated by Alexandria Finkeldey

Simon & Schuster: Register for the Simon & Schuster Fall Preview!

St. Martin's Press: Sacrificial Animals by Kailee Pedersen


ABA White Paper Urges Breakup of Amazon

The American Booksellers Association yesterday released a white paper outlining Amazon's anticompetitive behavior and urging the breakup of the company. The letter was sent to the attorneys general in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., as well as the National Association of Attorneys General, Bookselling This Week reported.

Called "American Monopoly: Amazon’s Anti-Competitive Behavior Is in Violation of Antitrust Laws," the white paper was written by the ABA's advocacy team and follows the release last October of the Congressional report on Big Tech and antitrust by the House Justice antitrust subcommittee, chaired by Rep. David Cicilline (D.-R.I.), and the introduction last week of related legislation by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D.-Minn.), chair of the Senate Justice antitrust subcommittee.

"Piles of Amazon boxes sitting on porches and in lobbies is becoming the norm, but there are costs and consequences to our communities," ABA CEO Allison Hill commented. "Amazon's overreaching dominance over multiple markets has squelched competition and new businesses. If Amazon were broken up today, we firmly believe the many markets in which they dominate would quickly diversify and grow and our communities would be the beneficiaries."

In the 21-page white paper, the ABA called the company's bookselling record "a case study as to how Amazon dominates entire categories of retail and poses a threat to the competitive process. Amazon controls 42% of all sales of physical books, and an estimated 75% of online sales of physical books. Further, Amazon controls 83% of e-book sales, more than 40% of new book sales, and about 85% of sales by self-published e-book authors. For comparison, Amazon's share of the online bookselling submarket is as large as Standard Oil's market share before it was dismantled into 34 companies in 1911.

"Nowhere is Amazon's conduct more of a threat to the competitive process than in the online bookselling submarket. Amazon has engaged exclusionary tactics, including predatory pricing, to gain market power and has leveraged its substantial market power against publishers unfairly."

The paper continues, "Amazon's anti-competitive conduct extends to the pricing of its proprietary e-book reader and tablet, the Kindle and Fire, which are 'loss leaders,' meaning products priced at or below cost to stimulate the sale of more profitable goods or services. Amazon's intent is to leave consumers with no alternative but to purchase e-books and other products from Amazon, rather than its competitors, regardless of price."

The paper goes into detail, too, about Amazon's practices in other markets and in other ways. The paper concludes that "when Amazon's behavior is taken as a whole, it is clear that Amazon is unlawfully restraining trade, is engaging in exclusionary, anti-competitive pricing schemes, and is using both its horizontal and vertical integration to create barriers to entry, increase Amazon's market power, and unfairly manipulate marketplaces. Amazon has used exclusionary, anti-competitive pricing schemes to gain market power and illegally monopolize the e-commerce retail market, specifically, the first-party online retail market, the third-party e-commerce marketplace market, the web services market, and the third-party logistics services market."

It also notes the company's "power to assert dominance over creators, workers, and local communities," which includes poor working conditions for warehouse employees and brutal effects on bricks-and-mortar retailers around the country.

The ABA recommends that Amazon "be broken up into at least four autonomous companies: retail, e-commerce marketplace platform, web services, and logistics. Additionally, given how Amazon uses systemic below-cost pricing on books in particular, we urge consideration that Amazon's retail operations be divided into book retail and other retail."

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

International Update: U.K. Indie Bookshop of the Year Winners, More Canadian Book Customer Survey Results

Regional and country winners have been announced for Independent Bookshop of the Year, the Bookseller reported. The nine shops now advance to the British Book Awards virtual ceremony on May 13, in the quest to be crowned top indie in the British Isles.

The booksellers honored include Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham (Midlands); Mr. B's Emporium of Reading Delights, Bath (South-West England); Red Lion Books, Colchester (East of England); Burley Fisher Books, Haggerston (London); Cogito Books, Hexham (North of England); Griffin Books, Penarth (Wales); Far from the Madding Crowd, Linlithgow (Scotland); Sevenoaks Bookshop, Sevenoaks (South-East England); and Tertulia, Westport (Ireland).  

"This was certainly the most difficult year of judging this award in Nibbies history and not because the pandemic was a body blow to indies," said Tom Tivnan, the Bookseller's managing editor and chair of the IBOTY judging panel. "Across Britain and Ireland indie booksellers not only survived but thrived in the past year--dealing with the various lockdowns by nimbly pivoting their business models with creativity and flair.... The most interesting thing was that while many of the shops moved to being online booksellers during lockdown periods, they did so while maintaining their identity, their support for their core customers and their links to local communities, perhaps proving that bookseller know-how and expertise will beat an algorithm any day."  


Part two of BookNet Canada's mini-blog series featuring results from the Canadian Book Consumer survey looked at "why and how Canadians acquire books." Among the highlights:

In 2020, Canadians were primarily reading to relax and enjoy (77%), with about half reading to pass the time (56%), 41% to gain knowledge, and 38% to become immersed in another world. These preferences and rankings haven't changed since the question was added to the survey in early 2019.

When asked how they generally became aware of books they read or listen to, responses included a bookstore or retailer (38%), author (30%), bestseller list (25%), public library (25%), another book (24%), social media (24%), online communities (15%) and digital media (13%).

Among Canadians who bought at least one new book in March, June, September or December last year, 25% became aware of the book they purchased by reading other books by the same author, up from 21% in 2019; 20% through a recommendation or review (up from 12%); 18% by browsing or searching online or in person (up from 17%); and 10% through social media.

For the 18% who discovered books by browsing or searching online or in person, 43% browsed on a bookseller's website (up from 38% in 2019), 25% browsed in a store in person (down from 42%) and 20% via a search engine (up from 9%). Other options included social media (8%), review websites (8%), author's website or social media (7%), publisher's website (6%) and a library, in person or online (5%).

More than half (64%) of books purchased last year were acquired online and 23% at a bookstore. When asked about the ways Canadians acquired books, 33% of respondents bought a new print book, 32% borrowed a book from a public library and 31% didn't acquire any books.


With the relaxation of coronavirus measures across the Netherlands, "non-essential retail stores have re-opened with limitations (visit by appointment, 2 people per floor in the store)," the European & International Booksellers Federation's Newsflash reported, adding: "Nevertheless, the re-opening has given booksellers some breathing room. Anne Schroën, the association's director, promises to continue fighting for booksellers to ensure the sector is represented before and helped by policymakers."


Librairie Ernster, the "All English Bookstore" in Luxembourg, joined the St. Patrick's Day fun yesterday with a green-themed front window display. --Robert Gray

GLOW: Torrey House Press: Life After Dead Pool: Lake Powell's Last Days and the Rebirth of the Colorado River by Zak Podmore

Sidelines Snapshot: Puzzles, Games, Journals and Cards

From Hygge Games

At The Well-Read Moose in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, puzzles and games have sold well throughout the pandemic, Marlene Craig reported. She and Melissa DeMotte have ordered a lot of puzzles through True South Puzzle Company that fit the store and have been quite popular with their customers. Family games and Hygge games are also doing well, as are OOLY art supplies.

Prior to the 2020 holiday season, Craig brought in Voluspa candles, which have sold consistently well since. She recently placed a large order for the Eugy 3D models from Geo Toys, which are meant for children between the ages of 8 and 12, and she added that the models are "very popular and fun to display." The store has recently introduced handmade leather journals from Earthbound to their journal displays, and they've already received "a lot of favorable comments." In the near future the store will also start rolling out new store-branded mugs.

Tree of Life journal from Earthbound

Asked about any locally or regionally made sidelines, Craig said the store carries Light It Up candles, which are made by a local candle maker named Tracey Beno and are a store favorite. There is also a line of indoor gardening items called Potting Shed Creations that is made in Troy, Idaho. Craig plans to display those items with new gardening books this spring. Another popular, local item is a large map of Idaho made by Mitchell Geography.

Reflecting on 2020, Craig noted that gift sales were down about 20% over the course of the year, though puzzles, games, puppets and plush toys were hard to keep in stock and holiday sales were exceptionally strong. 2021 has also gotten off to a good start in terms of non-book sales, and Craig and DeMotte are optimistic about the rest of the year.


From Pomegranate

In Mendocino, Calif., Gallery Bookshop is in the process of building its non-book inventory back up after a down year, owner Christie Olson Day reported. Throughout 2020, Day and her team let their sidelines inventory "dwindle," with the exception of puzzles and chocolates. The store has sourced it puzzles from a variety of suppliers, but Day said Pomegranate is probably her all-around favorite: "Tried and true and they can always ship." Recently she and her team added chocolate bars by Mast, which have done well (raspberry is the current favorite). 

When it comes to rebuilding the store's sidelines inventory, she plans to start with perennial favorites such as mugs, shirts, blank books, journals, stationery and pens. Elaborating on that process, Day explained that throughout most of the store's history, the approach to sidelines has been more or less to throw it at the wall and see what sticks. Now, however, they are being "a bit more careful and strategic."

For example, the store has sold Out of Print shirts "forever," but typically has brought in new designs haphazardly and hasn't always had all of the sizes available. This year Gallery Bookshop is choosing six designs for 2021 and will make sure they're always fully stocked. With some other favorites, such as Blackwing products, the store is going for more depth and more frequent reorders. She noted that they've never found a Blackwing product that they couldn't sell, from individual pencils to expensive gift sets, "so why not commit to carrying the whole line and keeping it fully stocked?"


Lauren Nopenz Fairley, operations manager at Curious Iguana in Frederick, Md., said journals and notebooks are always huge sellers for the store no matter the time of year. The store carries a wide variety of styles and types, but Peter Pauper Press, PaperBlanks and Decomposition Books are the store's staples, with Fairley adding that Curious Iguana also carries some guided journals from Chronicle and Penguin Random House that "customers love."

From Buy Olympia

Tote bags have also proven to be a steady sideline item, particularly those from Out of Print and Buy Olympia. Fairley said she's constantly bringing in new greeting card designs, including some recent ones from Buy Olympia about which she's very excited. On the subject of locally or regionally made sidelines, Fairley pointed to greeting cards from Second Story Cards, which are designed by people experiencing homelessness in Washington, D.C.

Looking back on 2020, Fairley said she noticed an increase in journal buying and strong sales for greeting cards. Overall, though, there was a slight decrease in sidelines sales compared to previous years, which she attributed to people being more interested in reading and keeping their minds active during the pandemic. --Alex Mutter

If you are interested in having your store appear in a future Sidelines Snapshot article, please e-mail

Harpervia: Only Big Bumbum Matters Tomorrow by Damilare Kuku

Obituary Note: George Mandel

George Mikali Mandel, the author and cartoonist who was an early member of the Beat Generation, died last month in New York. He was 101.

Born in New York City in 1920, Mandel worked as a cartoonist prior to World War II. He was wounded in combat in the war and received the Purple Heart Medal. He published his first novel, Flee the Angry Strangers, in 1952.

Over the course of his career he wrote novels with widely varied subjects, such as Scapegoats, about racial tensions in New York City, Crocodile Blood, a multigenerational saga set in Florida, and the war novels Into the Woods of the World and The Wax Boom. He also wrote short stories, and his cartoons were published in two collections: Beatville U.S.A. and Borderline Cases.


'Our Delivery Guys Are Heroes'

"Our delivery guys are heroes folks." Posted on Facebook earlier this week by Skylark Bookshop, Columbia, Mo.: "Today they brought nearly 500 books to add to our shelves for you. They also brought almost 100 advance copies so that we can keep busy reading books that are coming soon. This is one of our favorite job perks, but also it helps us select the best of the best to share with you when they are ready."

Personnel Changes at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

At Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

Colleen Murphy, v-p of sales, has expanded her areas of responsibility to include national accounts, field, specialty, digital, and international sales and subsidiary rights.

James Phirman, senior director of special sales, now oversees the school supply and library business and international.

Ron Hussey has been promoted to director of permissions, associate director of subsidiary rights.

Olivia Wilson has been promoted to national accounts manager.

Emily Breneman has been promoted to associate sales rep.

S&S to Distribute Heavy Metal Entertainment

Simon & Schuster is now handling book and graphic novel sales and distribution of Heavy Metal Entertainment in the U.S., Canada and other international territories.

Founded in 1977, Heavy Metal Entertainment includes Heavy Metal magazine, which focuses on fantastic and surrealistic worlds, alternate realities, science-fiction, and horror in the present and future. Published monthly, most issues feature one or two serialized graphic novels, several short stories, and two art galleries. The company also publishes graphic novels, comic books, e-books and more.

Heavy Metal CEO Matthew Medney said, "As we forge ahead with our ambitious content plans, we know it's only achievable with the right mix of partners. The folks at Simon & Schuster acknowledge and appreciate the legacy and value of the Heavy Metal brand, and they are the ideal shepherds for us as we continue to expand into books. The mission of this new iteration of Heavy Metal is at its core to pay homage to what brought us here and push the boundaries of science fiction, fantasy and horror even further. I know no better manifestation of this than our original partners on the Alien Graphic Novel all those years ago. We truly have come full circle, in the best way imaginable."

Among the first wave of titles to be released under the distribution agreement are collected editions of Heavy Metal's current comic titles, including Dylan Sprouse's Sun Eater and Dan Fogler's Brooklyn Gladiator and Fishkill. S&S will also print the enhanced second edition ("The Galactic Edition") of CEO Matthew Medney's hard science fiction novel Beyond Kuiper: The Galactic Star Alliance, featuring 60 pages of new content. Additionally, the first volume of Taarna, The Last Taarakian series will be released, featuring Heavy Metal's iconic heroine.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Pamela Terry on Good Morning America

Good Morning America: Pamela Terry, author of The Sweet Taste of Muscadines: A Novel (Ballantine, $27, 9780593158456).

This Weekend on Book TV: The Tucson Festival of Books

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, March 20
1 p.m. Meghan Cox Gurdon, author of The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction (Harper, $17.99, 9780062562821), at the 2021 Tucson Festival of Books in Tucson, Ariz.

2 p.m. Nicole Perlroth, author of This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race (Bloomsbury, $30, 9781635576054), and John Ferris, author of Behind the Enigma: The Authorized History of GCHQ, Britain's Secret Cyber-Intelligence Agency (Bloomsbury, $40, 9781635574654), at the 2021 Tucson Festival of Books.

3 p.m. Sanjay Sarma and Luke Yoquinto, authors of Grasp: The Science Transforming How We Learn (Doubleday, $28.95, 9780385541824), at the 2021 Tucson Festival of Books.

5:30 p.m. Teodros Kiros, author of Conversations with Cornel West (Africa World Press, $15.95, 9781569026885).

8 p.m. Emma Brown, author of To Raise a Boy: Classrooms, Locker Rooms, Bedrooms, and the Hidden Struggles of American Boyhood (Atria/One Signal, $28, 9781982128081), at One More Page Bookstore in Arlington, Va.

9 p.m. Michael J. Fox, author of No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality (Flatiron, $27.99, 9781250265616). (Re-airs Sunday at 12 a.m.)

10 p.m. Rosa Brooks, author of Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City (Penguin Press, $28, 9780525557852). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

Sunday, March 21
1 p.m. David S. Brown, author of The Last American Aristocrat: The Brilliant Life and Improbable Education of Henry Adams (Scribner, $30, 9781982128234), at the 2021 Tucson Festival of Books.

2 p.m. Paul Dye, author of Shuttle, Houston: My Life in the Center Seat of Mission Control (Hachette Books, $28, 9780316454575), at the 2021 Tucson Festival of Books.

3 p.m. Jeff Testerman and Daniel Freed, authors of Call Me Commander: A Former Intelligence Officer and the Journalists Who Uncovered His Scheme to Fleece America (Potomac Books, $34.95, 9781640123045), at the 2021 Tucson Festival of Books.

5 p.m. Robert Strauss, author of John Marshall: The Final Founder (Lyons Press, $27.95, 9781493037476).

6 p.m. Andrew Maraniss, author of Singled Out: The True Story of Glenn Burke (Philomel, $18.99, 9780593116722), at Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn.

7:05 p.m. Cass Sunstein, author of Liars: Falsehoods and Free Speech in an Age of Deception (Oxford University Press, $22.95, 9780197545119).

Books & Authors

Awards: Laing Winner; Bernstein Journalism Finalists

Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side by Eve L. Ewing has won the 2020 Gordon J. Laing Award, given by the University of Chicago Press to "the faculty author, editor, or translator whose book has brought the greatest distinction to the list of the University of Chicago Press."

The Press said that Ghosts in the Schoolyard "draws on Ewing's insider experience in the Chicago Public School system--as a student, a teacher, and a researcher--to situate the City's wave of school closings in 2013 within a larger context. Ewing reveals that this issue is about much more than just schools. Black communities see the closing of their schools--schools that are certainly less than perfect but that are theirs--as one more in a long line of racist policies. The fight to keep them open is yet another front in the ongoing struggle of Black people in America to build successful lives and achieve true self-determination. The book was praised by Ta-Nehisi Coates and was widely discussed from coverage on NPR to the Daily Show with Trevor Noah and the Nation."

Ewing is assistant professor in Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the University of Chicago.


The five finalists for the $15,000 34th annual Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, sponsored by the New York Public Library and recognizing "nonfiction books written by working journalists that bring attention and transparency to current events or societal issues of global or national significance," are:

Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America by Conor Dougherty (Penguin Press)
Our Bodies, Their Battlefields: War Through the Lives of Women by Christina Lamb (Simon & Schuster)
Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It by Tom Philpott (Bloomsbury)
Paying the Land by Joe Sacco (Metropolitan Books/Holt)
Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms by Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law (The New Press)

The winner will be announced in May.

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, March 23:

The Palm Beach Murders by James Patterson (Grand Central, $30, 9781538754078) collects several murder mysteries set in Florida.

The Bounty: A Novel by Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton (Atria, $28, 9781982157135) is the seventh thriller with FBI agent Kate O'Hare and con man Nicholas Fox.

Double Jeopardy by Stuart Woods (Putnam, $28, 9780593188385) is book 57 in the Stone Barrington thriller series.

The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear (Harper, $27.99, 9780062868022) is the 16th historical mystery with Maisie Dobbs.

A Question Mark Is Half a Heart by Sofia Lundberg, trans. by Nicola Smalley (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9781328473028) follows a successful woman whose life disintegrates amid flashbacks of a troubled childhood.

American Covenant: National Parks, Their Promise, and Our Nation's Future by Michael A. Soukup and Gary E. Machlis (Yale University Press, $25, 9780300140354) shares thoughts on the national park system from two National Park Service veterans.

Rock Me on the Water: 1974--The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television, and Politics by Ronald Brownstein (Harper, $29.99, 9780062899217) is a cultural history of Los Angeles in 1974.

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads, $18.99, 9781250313973) features a teen girl who has no choice but to try to save the children who have gone missing in the woods.

Something's Wrong!: A Bear, A Hare, and Some Underwear by Jory John, illus. by Erin Balzer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $18.99, 9780374313883) is a fun, silly picture book focusing on a bear in underwear.

The Book of Longings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd (Penguin Books, $17, 9780143111399).

Karolina and the Torn Curtain by Maryla Szymiczkowa, trans. by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Mariner, $15.99, 9780358157571) is a mystery set in 1895 Cracow.

Under the Sky We Make: How to Be Human in a Warming World by Kimberly Nicholas (Putnam, $17.99, 9780593328170).

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 Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey (Tor, $24.99, 9781250174666). "Just wow! I am so delighted that there are writers like Sarah Gailey producing science fiction of this caliber. Their latest novel, The Echo Wife, kept me riveted from beginning to end with elegant prose and a compelling, vulnerable protagonist who narrates the story in a wonderfully intimate first-person point of view. This is a refreshing, fast-paced thriller that gives center stage to questions of our humanity without asking them from a male-only perspective." --Christine Havens, BookPeople, Austin, Tex.

The Smash-Up by Ali Benjamin (Random House, $27, 9780593229651). "Ali Benjamin's debut adult novel is an interesting portrayal of a contemporary marriage and the many pressures it faces. Through the lives of her main characters, Benjamin explores many present-day issues--the #MeToo movement, the place of social protests, the difficulties of childrearing, and the temptation of infidelity. As Zo and Ethan each face a moral dilemma, Benjamin shows us their individual struggles. While there is sadness and conflict in this book, there is also hope." --Jane Stiles, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, Mass.

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai (Avon, $15.99, 9780062878151). "Alisha Rai has continued to deliver another relevant, swoon-worthy romance with First Comes Like. This book is perfect for readers who love a slow burn or fans of You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria. I enjoyed seeing the perspective of a contemporary Muslim woman in a way that wasn't sensationalized or exoticized. Rai has written a book that is still sexy, even when the characters aren't having sex. Jia, the heroine, is a ball of sunshine toward whom I instantly gravitated for her open, generous heart, big dreams, and strong work ethic. Reading about her journey to conquer self-doubt taught me a little bit about reframing my own flaws and accepting myself, too." --Stephanie Otani-Sunamoto, The Novel Neighbor, Webster Groves, Mo.

For Ages 4 to 8
Bartali's Bicycle: The True Story of Gino Bartali, Italy's Secret Hero by Megan Hoyt, illus. by Iacopo Bruno (Quill Tree Books, $17.99, 9780062908117). "Elbows in. Head down. Hoyt's writing puts us right in the saddle of this amazing true story. Striking compositions and sumptuous renderings illuminate the courageous experiences of a dedicated athlete and quiet hero who saved hundreds of lives in World War II but kept it a secret all his life. Sure to inspire another generation to keep their faces to the wind." --Julie Rowan-Zoch, Old Firehouse Books, Fort Collins, Colo.

For Ages 9 to 12
Unsolved Case Files: Escape at 10,000 Feet: D.B. Cooper and the Missing Money by Tom Sullivan (Balzer + Bray, $12.99, 9780062991515). "Tom Sullivan's Unsolved Case Files graphic novel series is sure to be a hit. First up is Escape at 10,000 Feet, the true story of the skyjacking of a flight to Seattle in November 1971 and the hijacker's jump from the plane into the frigid night with the ransom money. Illustrations include reproductions of FBI records, cockpit transcripts, and text boxes that explain technical details. The target audience is middle-grade readers, but readers of all ages will get caught up in the investigation and the possibility of solving the crime themselves--the $200,000 ransom has never been found and may still be out there!" --Susan Posch, The Book Shoppe, Boone, Iowa

For Teen Readers
Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft (Wednesday Books, $18.99, 9781250623638). "Down Comes the Night is a breathtaking debut. Brilliant, healing, and affirming, this gothic fantasy is simply unforgettable. Wren is one of the most empathetic characters I've had the pleasure of reading recently. In a country in the midst of a war, Wren is a healer who puts her predisposed biases behind her in order to save someone she isn't sure is worth saving. I loved every bit of this atmospheric book." --Cody Roecker, The Novel Neighbor, Webster Groves, Mo.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: White Shadow

White Shadow by Roy Jacobsen, trans. by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw (Biblioasis, $16.95 paperback, 272p., 9781771964036, April 6, 2021)

Roy Jacobsen's White Shadow is the second in his Barrøy trilogy, following The Unseen, which introduced readers to the Barrøy family and the small Norwegian island that shares their name. White Shadow opens: "The fish came first. Man is merely a persistent guest." It is not a man but a woman, however, who occupies the center of the novel. Now in her mid-30s, Ingrid Barrøy works on the mainland, splitting and salting cod and herring. She "longed to be gone, to be back on Barrøy, but no one can be alone on an island and this autumn neither man nor beast was there, Barrøy lay deserted and abandoned, it hadn't even been visible since the end of October, but she couldn't be here on the main island either."

After paddling back to Barrøy, Ingrid is indeed alone amid the ruins of her family home, until the British bomb a German steamer carrying troops and prisoners of war in nearby waters. In her family's hayloft she finds a man alive. They do not share a language, but they share much. Hiding her guest from the Nazis and their Norwegian collaborators will send Ingrid away from home again, and it will be another arduous feat to return, but it is always Barrøy for this stalwart protagonist. She stands "suddenly wonderstruck at all the things that had kept her on the island, which in truth were nothing at all."

Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw, Jacobsen's prose is as stark and unadorned as the landscape he portrays. His characters are hardworking, worn and stoic against a ruthless natural world, but there is beauty in their strength, and in the harsh simplicity of island life. "It is as it has always been, Barrøy has everything yet lacks something of real importance." The central setting is limited in its scope, but in Ingrid's travels she meets a variety of characters, including profiteers and refugees, eventually repopulating her home and tentatively, perhaps, building something new.

While there is a thread of romance here, White Shadow is more a profile of an individual and a culture ("people who never sat down"). It is also a sensory experience of rough conditions and cold, work ethic and strong ties. Ingrid's community is hard-won and all the sweeter for it. No familiarity with The Unseen is necessary for this second installment, which stands alone comfortably, although the final lines do gesture at questions about the future of Barrøy. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: This second in a gripping trilogy of home, place and relationships sees a woman struggle alone, and then less alone, in World War II Norway.

Powered by: Xtenit