Shelf Awareness for Thursday, September 30, 2021

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio


P&T Knitwear Bookstore Coming to NYC's Lower East Side

The future home of P&T Knitwear Bookstore

P&T Knitwear Bookstore, an independent bookstore and cafe selling all new titles, will open at 180 Orchard St. on New York City's Lower East Side early next year. Owner Bradley Tusk, the venture capitalist and philanthropist who founded the Gotham Book Prize last year, and general manager and buyer Julie Wernersbach, a bookseller with some 15 years' experience, are eyeing a February 2022 opening date.

"He wants to give back to New York," Wernersbach said of Tusk, adding that he's a "huge reader" and "loves the city." The store's name comes from the name of a knitwear company co-founded by Tusk's grandfather in the early 1950s, which was located just a few blocks away from where the bookstore will open. "He wanted to pay homage to the neighborhood, and create a good bookstore for New York and the Lower East Side."

Another major part of the project for Tusk and Wernersbach is making sure that the store's booksellers are well compensated, have health insurance and are able to "make a real living wage in NYC." Given what the bottom line looks like for a bookstore, that could make for an "exciting challenge." Said Wernersbach: "We're putting our staff and community first."

The 3,000-square-foot bookstore will carry titles for children, teens and adults across all genres, with a particular focus on fiction and nonfiction about New York City. Reflecting Tusk's long experience working with and supporting start-ups, the store will also have robust tech and business sections. The space includes an events ampitheatre with built-in seating, and the store will have a podcast studio with professional equipment that community members will be able to use for free.

"That's a key piece of the project for Bradley," Wernersbach remarked. "He sees it as another service we can provide."

Asked about plans for sidelines and non-book items, Wernersbach said she's "very much scouting vendors" and trying to find items that feel right for the store. Wernersbach is "thinking about what our niche is" and identifying what the store can stock that's different; she pointed out that P&T Knitwear Bookstore is not far from McNally Jackson's NoLita location and down the street from the Tenement Museum, both of which carry some fantastic non-book merchandise. At the same time, she is looking to hire local artists to create some store-branded merchandise, and she said she'd feel remiss if the bookstore didn't carry some sort of knitwear.

On the subject of the cafe, Wernersbach said they're looking for a partner to come in, run the cafe and brand it. Talks are ongoing with "nothing firm," but the general plan is to offer drinks and a variety of grab-and-go food items.

Wernersbach recently hired Jahtiek Long as the store's community and events manager, and they've been brainstorming possibilities for future events. P&T Knitwear Bookstore will likely host some virtual events well before the store opens in February, and they've been kicking around longer-term plans like trying to organize a Lower East Side bookstore crawl for Independent Bookstore Day 2022. The bookstore team also plans to offer programming related to the business and tech worlds, and will use the podcast studio for author interviews.

Community partnerships also play a big part in the store's future event plans, with Wernersbach noting that Long is reaching out to organizations in the area. The team is "interested in bringing different arts together," and she stressed that the bookstore doesn't "want to be in competition with anybody" when it comes to these sorts of events.

Initially Tusk and Wernersbach had hoped to open P&T Knitwear Bookstore in time for Indies First/Small Business Saturday this year. Because of ongoing supply chain issues with construction materials, they decided to postpone the opening until next year. Wernersbach also had some misgivings about "what the book situation will look like" during the holiday season.

While Wernersbach is a bit sad to "miss the holiday madness," she's glad the store has more time to prepare and especially to get to know the community and learn about their neighbors. It's time to do outreach and "make those introductions," she said. "We can have all the ideas we want, but what does the neighborhood actually want and need? That's what's driving us now." --Alex Mutter

Holiday House: The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith by Tom Llewellyn; The Selkie's Daughter by Linda Crotta Brennan

Time 100: 'Most Influential' Book People

Time magazine recently released its annual list of the "100 Most Influential People." Among the authors showcased:

N.K. Jemisin: Stacey Abrams wrote: "World-building is the core of extraordinary science fiction--the ability to craft the contours, substance and heft of whole societies. What N.K. Jemisin accomplishes in each of her works defies the standard 'us vs. them' narrative and instead dares readers to bring their lived experiences into the space she has imagined. As our nation grappled with the stubborn ephemera of justice and the harsh consequences of a pandemic, Jemisin, who received a 2020 MacArthur 'genius' grant, constructed a revolutionary exploration of the places where we live in The City We Became. Through the anima of New York, she invited us all to become freedom fighters. We are slowly emerging from extended isolation; and for millions, the notion of a shared public identity remains brittle. But Jemisin's genius is in how effortlessly she shatters our misconceptions about one another and our world, then invites us to dream to do better."

Jessica B. Harris: Carla Hall wrote: "For me, the work that Jessica B. Harris has done has given me a deeper sense of who I am as an African American, and why I should be proud to be an African American. It's one thing to have Black history, but she has the ability to relay information from the perspective of the culture, looking at our food and what our ancestors have eaten--our DNA on a plate. She has a way of sharing things that have happened in our culture, whether in Senegal, other West African countries or the States, and giving you a sense of pride, because of the knowledge that she has. Her critical thinking helps you to question the things that you're told or things that you think are true. Eating is something that we all have to do every day, and she has had a huge influence on the way we eat. Through work like her bestselling book, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey From Africa to America, and the 2021 Netflix series it inspired, Jessica makes food more approachable--it's not intimidating, it's very much accessible. And she gives you the confidence to make a dish. I think that Jessica's voice is necessary, not just in this very small and intimate industry, but on a bigger stage."

Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

Pew Report: 'Who Doesn't Read Books in America?'

Some 23% of American adults said they have not read a book in whole or in part during the previous year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted January 25 to February 8 2021, found.

According to the PRC survey, adults with a high school diploma or less are far more likely than those with a bachelor's or advanced degree to report not reading books in any format in the past year (39% vs. 11%). Adults with lower levels of educational attainment are also among the least likely to own smartphones, an increasingly common way for adults to read e-books.

In addition, "adults whose annual household income is less than $30,000 are more likely than those living in households earning $75,000 or more a year to be non-book readers (31% vs. 15%). Hispanic adults (38%) are more likely than Black (25%) or white adults (20%) to report not having read a book in the past 12 months," the PRC wrote. The survey included Asian Americans but did not have sufficient sample size to do statistical analysis of this group.

Non-book readers also vary by age and community type. Americans 50 and older, for example, are more likely than younger counterparts to be non-book readers. There is not a statistically significant difference by gender.

The share of Americans who report not reading any books in the past 12 months has fluctuated over the years the PRC has studied it. The current number (23%) is identical to the share who said this in 2014, the Center noted, adding: "The same demographic traits that characterize non-book readers also often apply to those who have never been to a library. In a 2016 survey, the Center found that Hispanic adults, older adults, those living in households earning less than $30,000, and those who have a high school diploma or did not graduate from high school were among the most likely to report in that survey they had never been to a public library."

International Update: Frankfurt Book Fair's Expectations; Ransomware Attack Affects Dutch Bookstores

About 1,500 exhibitors from more than 70 countries, including 60 publishers from U.S. and U.K., are expected to attend the physical edition of the Frankfurt Book Fair, scheduled for October 20-24 under the theme "Re:connect--Welcome back to Frankfurt," the Bookseller reported.

Noting that this year would see "very little representation" from South America and the U.S., Frankfurter Buchmesse president Juergen Boos said the number of international delegates registered to attend is expected to be between 700 and 800, down from 4,000 people in 2019.

"We've been waiting for this moment for--well it feels like 100 years," Boos added. "The focus of this year's Frankfurter Buchmesse will be reuniting with colleagues and authors from around the world. Books proved themselves to be particularly resilient and popular as a medium during the pandemic. Anyone who wants to comprehend the complexity of our times appreciates the creativity and expertise exhibited by writers and the editorial care required for producing books. Literature connects readers all over the world. This year, the book fair will once again bring together the global industry for one week in Frankfurt--and, naturally, people everywhere around the world will be able to follow all the action live."

Organizers said that North America, Latin America and Asia will all be represented in the exhibition halls with national stands, as will the major European book markets, including France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Central and Eastern Europe. The Bookseller noted that while "virtually all of the major German publishing groups and a range of German-language literary and non-fiction publishers have also registered to take part," several U.K. publishers have chosen to join in the digital fair instead, "with large U.K. houses such as PRH, Hachette and HarperCollins also choosing not to send people in person."


About 130 bookstores in the Netherlands have been affected by a ransomware attack earlier this week on the systems of French company TiteLive, which provides software for many Dutch bookstores. Netherlands News Live reported that "the database of books and invoices of the bookshops is not damaged, but they cannot access it. As a result, everything now has to be maintained manually and that means extra work."

Bookstore chain Libris said the hack affected an estimated 90 branches, though there doesn't seem to be any real damage. "You do receive a book from the printer now, but you don't know for whom," said Jan Peter Prenger. "When people order, bookstores have to work manually. Books can be sold in the shops, but it's very annoying."

Athenaeum Boekhandels said it can still sell books in the shops, but cannot get into the system: "The portal has been hacked, but fortunately nothing has happened to the database. We can just sell books, the cash register works."

Rotterdam's Donner bookshop, which was also hit by what its website calls "a digital attack," noted that "the data has not been touched. But the recovery has taken some time. We are back online, but you may still be affected by this attack. Thank you for your understanding."


During the 34th Moscow International Book Fair on September 24, the Russian Booksellers Association hosted its second international conference, exploring "how the world book industry is facing new realities, including new technologies, new challenges and new perspectives," the European & International Booksellers Federation's NewsFlash reported. The event was organized as a hybrid conference, with Russian guests attending in person, while international attendees joined online.

Featured guest speakers included James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones and CEO of Barnes & Noble, and Hazel Kenyon, book research director at Nielsen Book. Speaking on behalf of EIBF, communications officer Jasmina Kanuric presented the European Union Prize for Literature. Watch the conference broadcast here. --Robert Gray

Amazon: First Fulfillment Center Opens in N. Dakota; New Kindle Paperwhites

Amazon's new fulfillment center in Fargo, N. Dak., has opened. Employees started working on September 19 at the one million-plus-square-foot facility that is the "largest structure in the State of North Dakota (in terms of square footage)," according to the company.

"North Dakota welcomes this significant investment, which will bring high paying jobs to our state, further connect North Dakotans into the global commerce system and increase the speed of delivery of products to our residents," said Governor Doug Burgum.


Amazon has introduced what it describes as "the next generation of Kindle Paperwhite in three new models," including the Kindle Paperwhite Kids, which the company described as being "purpose-built for reading books with zero distractions--no games, ads, or video." The waterproof e-reader features an adjustable warm light, glare-free display and up to 10-week battery life, along with a one-year subscription to Amazon Kids+; it retails for $159.99. 

Also announced were the new Kindle Paperwhite and first-ever Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition, which Amazon said combine "premium hardware, faster performance, and a redesigned user interface for a more enjoyable reading experience." Starting at $139.99, the Kindle Paperwhite offers a larger display, adjustable warm light and increased battery life, while the new Signature Edition, at $189.99, adds an auto-adjusting light sensor and is the first Kindle to feature wireless charging. All three models will start shipping October 27.

Obituary Note: John Ziccardi

John Ziccardi

John Ziccardi, longtime "sales maestro" at Bantam/BDD, died on September 27. He was 78.

In his three decades with the company, now part of Penguin Random House, he was "responsible for placing millions of mass-market paperbacks on the shelves and racks of New York City and national accounts. As head of national sales, he also was indispensable in establishing Bantam Books, known primarily as a paperback reprinter in the eighties, as a major, enduring force in hardcover publishing," the company recalled.

"John, in the opinion of one of his knowing contemporaries, was one of the greatest one-on-one salespeople trade publishing has ever known. A kid from Queens, who rose from a field rep to run the entire Bantam and then BDD national-accounts sales group, John was always out there, with his charismatic blend of title and account knowledge, charm, warmth, and sincere other-directedness. And he always got the title order he asked for.

"It was a different business in his heyday: Paperback reprints mattered. Online selling did not exist. The lead accounts were Waldenbooks, B. Dalton, Crown Books, Ingram Books, and Barnes & Noble, led by Len and Steve Riggio, with whom John had enduring personal relationships. Back then, Bantam sold more than 10 million copies each of The Exorcist and Jaws mass-market paperbacks, with Ziccardi and his people moving a lot of them. In the '80s, he and his sales posse helped make Iacocca: An Autobiography a multi-million-selling hardcover, and Chuck Yeager and Clive Cussler number-one hardcover bestselling authors. He even got frontier-storytelling-phobic accounts selling Louis L'Amour novels.

"The energy and joy he generated and enjoyed receiving from engaging with booksellers--and even book buyers he chatted up in the store aisles--were impossible to resist. Ordering new and backlist books from him was fun. Selling them to your customers was fun. Reading them was fun. And, with John out front, annual ABA conventions and Bantam-BDD sales conferences could become memorable party times--after the daytime's hard work.

Ziccardi nurtured several generations of sales reps and executives, and was an advisor to several of our CEOs and imprint publishers about the marketplace dynamic. They didn't always agree with him, but they never not listened."

His survivors include his son Anthony Ziccardi, publisher of Post Hill Press.

Visitation is today, September 30, 3 p.m.-8 p.m., at the Papavero Funeral Home, 72-27 Grand Ave, Maspeth, N.Y. 11378. Funeral Mass is tomorrow, Friday, October 1, at 9:45 a.m., at Our Lady of Hope Church, 61-27 71st St, Middle Village, N.Y. 11379

For those who wish to make a donation in his honor, Ziccardi was a great supporter of St. Jude's Children's Hospital.


Cool Idea of the Day: International Translation Day Celebration

In honor of International Translation Day today, HarperVia and are teaming up to offer a free translated audiobook download for 24 hours. Listeners have until 11:59 Eastern time tonight to fill out a form on and choose one of six titles as their free download.

The list of titles includes: The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde, translated by Diane Oatley; The Florios of Sicily by Stefania Auci, translated by Katherine Gregor; The German House by Annette Hess, translated by Elisabeth Lauffer; Three O'Clock in the Morning by Gianrico Carofiglio, translated by Howard Curtis; The Aunt Who Wouldn't Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, translated by Arunava Sinha; and Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.

Banned Books Week, the Contest

"In celebration of Banned Books Week, we have a contest going on in the shop," Monkey and Dog Books, Fort Worth, Tex., posted on Facebook. "We have placed two banned books (one adult and one middle grade) inside these jars. Come by and take a look at them, and if you think you know what books they are, fill out an entry form. All correct guesses will be put in a drawing for a prize to be determined. Visit the shop this week and make your guesses. Good luck!"

Otto Penzler's Dream Library

The home of Otto Penzler, owner of the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City and founder of the Mysterious Press, was featured Tuesday in the real estate section of The New York Times. The 5,800-square-foot building in Kent, Conn., which was constructed in stages over 12 years, features turrets, a "statement fireplace" and a two-story library modeled on the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

Inside the library are mahogany shelves, a 16-foot-long table and a Dante chair, all illuminated by lantern sconces. Said Penzler: "I thought about this room for 30 years of my life."

Our Apologies: Job Title Mixup in Yesterday's Savoy Story

In yesterday's item about Savoy Bookshop & Cafe, Westerly, R.I., being featured in Slightly Foxed magazine as the Bookshop of the Quarter, we got Stephanie Kruse's title wrong. She is bookseller, event host and social media manager. The manager of Savoy is Mariana Calderon. Our apologies!

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Stevie Van Zandt on Here & Now, Rachael Ray

NPR's Here & Now: Stevie Van Zandt, author of Unrequited Infatuations: A Memoir (Hachette, $31, 9780306925429). He will also be on Rachael Ray tomorrow.

Drew Barrymore Show: Phoebe Robinson, author of Please Don't Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes: Essays (Tiny Reparations Books, $27, 9780593184905).

This Weekend on Book TV: Live In-Depth with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

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, October 2
8 a.m. Edward Ball, author of Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy (Picador, $20, 9781250798619). (Re-airs Saturday 8 p.m.)

9:45 a.m. Lynn Hudson, author of West of Jim Crow: The Fight against California's Color Line (University of Illinois Press, $24.95, 9780252085253). (Re-airs Saturday at 9:45 p.m.)

2 p.m. Christopher J. Leahy, author of President without a Party: The Life of John Tyler (LSU Press, $39.95, 9780807172544). (Re-airs Sunday at 2 a.m.)

3 p.m. Page Harrington, author of Interpreting the Legacy of Women's Suffrage at Museums and Historic Sites (‎Rowman & Littlefield, $35, 9781538118771). (Re-airs Sunday at 3 a.m.)

5:45 p.m. Mike Duncan, author of Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis de Lafayette in the Age of Revolution (PublicAffairs, $30, 9781541730335).  (Re-airs Sunday at 5:45 a.m.)

Sunday, October 3
8 a.m. Scott Gottlieb, author of Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic (Harper, $28.99, 9780063080010). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m.)

8:55 a.m. Randall Kennedy, author of Say It Loud!: On Race, Law, History, and Culture (Pantheon, $30, 9780593316047). (Re-airs Sunday at 8:55 p.m.)

10 a.m. George Will, author of American Happiness and Discontents: The Unruly Torrent, 2008-2020 (Hachette Books, $32, 9780306924415). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

11 a.m. David Rubenstein, author of The American Experiment: Dialogues on a Dream (Simon & Schuster, $32, 9781982165734). (Re-airs Sunday at 11 p.m.)

12 p.m. Live In-Depth q&a with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of Not "A Nation of Immigrants": Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion (Beacon Press, $27.95, 9780807036297). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m.)

4 p.m. Chris Wallace, co-author of Countdown bin Laden: The Untold Story of the 247-Day Hunt to Bring the Mastermind of 9/11 to Justice (Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781982176525). (Re-airs Monday at 4 a.m.)

5:10 p.m. Ada Ferrer, author of Cuba: An American History (Scribner, $32, 9781501154553). (Re-airs Monday at 5:10 a.m.)

6:30 p.m. Jillian Peterson and James Densley, authors of The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic (Abrams, $28, 9781419752957).

Books & Authors

Awards: Shaughnessy Cohen for Political Writing

The Writers' Trust of Canada has announced that Ronald J. Deibert's book Reset: Reclaiming the Internet for Civil Society won the C$25,000 (about US$19,735) Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, which recognizes "an exceptional book of literary nonfiction that captures a political subject of relevance to Canadian readers."

The jury commented: "Reset is a sweeping, authoritative journey into the threats of the internet for personal and national security in Canada. Ronald J. Deibert combines leading-edge research and gripping stories to expose the dangerous, even deadly, forces lurking online. With trailblazing originality, he explains why Canadians are at risk, and why it’s time to reset the internet to thwart cybercriminals, safeguard political activists, rein in environmental costs, and restrain the mayhem of social media. Reset sounds a warning siren not only for Canada, but for the world."

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, October 5:

Crossroads: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30, 9780374181178) follows a Midwestern family on a single winter day in 1971.

2 Sisters Detective Agency by James Patterson and Candice Fox (Grand Central, $31, 9781538704592) features an attorney and her estranged half-sister running a private detective agency.

The Lincoln Highway: A Novel by Amor Towles (Viking, $30, 9780735222359) follows juvenile work farm convicts over 10 days in 1954 as they travel to New York City.

A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries (2003-2020) by David Sedaris (Little, Brown, $32, 9780316558792) collects years of the humorist's personal diary.

Three Sisters: A Novel by Heather Morris (St. Martin's Press, $28.99, 9781250276896) concludes the historical fiction trilogy begun with The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America by Victor Davis Hanson (Basic Books, $30, 9781541602151) argues that American citizenship has weakened.

Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion, $19.99, 9781368077927) is an action-packed Jules Verne-inspired sea adventure for middle-grade readers.

Black Birds in the Sky by Brandy Colbert (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $19.99, 9780063056664) is a young adult nonfiction chronicle of "the story and legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre."

Beneath a Starless Sky by Tessa Harris (HQ Digital, $16.99, 9780008444983).

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:

Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian (Park Row, $27.99, 9780778311553). "This stunning psychological suspense novel will have you reading well into the night. That ending! Fans of Gillian Flynn and Caroline Kepnes will love this intense book." --William Carl, An Unlikely Story, Plainville, Mass.

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova (Atria, $27, 9781982102548). "This story sparkles and enchants! It's a rich and layered multigeneration saga featuring strong women and a mystery veiled in magical realism that will tease and feed your imagination." --Grace Rajendran, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

The Big Door Prize by M.O. Walsh (Putnam, $17, 9780735218505). "M.O. Walsh weaves quintessential Southern charm with a quirky scenario in a novel that questions what measures a life well-lived and answers with an entertaining tale of a grand machine in a modest town." --Mary Garner Rees, Lemuria Bookstore, Jackson, Miss.

For Ages 4 to 8
Bright Star by Yuyi Morales (Neal Porter, $18.99, 9780823443284). "Yuyi Morales has the ability to convey so much emotion and imagery, leaving the reader teary-eyed with a pounding heart. Bright Star is a gorgeous and stunning picture book with a powerful message." --Lauren Nopenz Fairley, Curious Iguana, Frederick, Md.

For Ages 8 to 12
A Soft Place to Land by Janae Marks (Katherine Tegen, $16.99, 9780062875877). "Janae Marks offers readers hope in this appealing novel of friendship and second chances. Exploring powerful themes, such as responsibility, loyalty, and forgiveness, A Soft Place to Land is a joy!" --Christopher Rose, Andover Bookstore, Andover, Mass.

For Teen Readers: An Indies Introduce Title
Me (Moth) by Amber McBride (Feiwel & Friends, $18.99, 9781250780362). "This book is simply beautiful! Told in verse, it's a story of love, tragedy, and forgiveness. It's about finding yourself again in the midst of grieving. Each poem could stand on its own but, together, they tell a story that gets you all in the feels. I just want to hug Moth." --Kim Brock, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, Ohio

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Brickmakers

Brickmakers by Selva Almada, trans. by Annie McDermott (Graywolf, $16 paperback, 160p., 9781644450697, November 2, 2021)

Argentinian literary powerhouse Selva Almada's stupendous second novel (after The Wind that Lays Waste) opens and ends in a deserted fairground where death claims two young men predestined to hate each other. Pájaro Tamai is "sprawled on his back," although just earlier that evening his ribs had ached, not from pain, but "from laughing so hard" when he had "felt high, happy and powerful." Not far away lies Marciano Miranda, "sprawled on his stomach, with one eye open," who had until recently resembled "a stud from a telenovela," garbed in white pants that were "brand-new, spotless, tight, outlining his manhood, shirt tucked in all the way around." But now their youthful bodies are losing their bitter vibrancy forever.

While both men expire, Almada artfully, hauntingly reveals the inevitability of their demise. As boys--at least until third grade--Pájaro and Marciano managed to be best friends under the radar of their fathers' mutual hostility. The animosity bloomed when fathers Tamai and Miranda--the titular brickmakers--became viciously competitive neighbors. "Officially, the two men's feud began with the stolen puppy," when Tamai absconded with the best of Miranda's beloved greyhound litter--and turned the potential champion into a heinously tortured beast. Miranda never got over his brokenhearted disgust, severing any possibility of even civility. And then Miranda was murdered, leaving Marciano the 12-year-old head of his household. A 13-year-old Pájaro also became "man of the house" when abusive Tamai finally abandoned his family. Their poisonous paternal legacy kills their sons--but not before the enemy fathers return as spirits, at turns poignant and taunting, to usher their firstborns into the beyond. "What a f*cking waste," the policeman intones in finality.

Violence seems inescapable throughout Brickmakers, even as its originating reasons have long been lost. Tamai and Miranda were once drinking buddies who got into a bar fight, "but they didn't forget they had unfinished business." Their wives and children, of course, are left to pay for their unresolved animosity in perpetuity; their sons' pathetic inheritance becomes a fatal legacy of toxic masculinity, claiming unsuspecting sacrifices. Even as Almada exposes her characters' countless mistakes--arrogant, desperate, unforgivable--she also presents them with undeniable empathy. She writes without judgment, revealing the complicated layers of difficult lives that at any point can turn cruelty into a quotidian reality. Paired once more with gloriously agile Annie McDermott, who translated the hybrid Dead Girls (2020), Almada's breathtaking multigenerational tragedy is a haunting, unforgettable examination of the lasting consequences of careless inhumanity. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Latin American literary superstar Selva Almada presents a quietly spectacular, hauntingly memorable multigenerational family tragedy fueled by the consequences of toxic masculinity.

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