Shelf Awareness for Thursday, February 15, 2024


Flatiron Books: The Courting of Bristol Keats: [Limited Stenciled Edge Edition] by Mary E Pearson

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker

Doubleday Books: Death at the Sign of the Rook: A Jackson Brodie Book by Kate Atkinson

Groundwood Books: Who We Are in Real Life by Victoria Koops

Agate Bolden: 54 Miles by Leonard Pitts Jr.

News

Wi2024: Day 3

The 19th American Booksellers Association Winter Institute ended yesterday afternoon with an announcement that next year's Wi will be held February 23-26, 2025, in Denver, Colo., where the Winter Institute took place in 2016.

This year's event drew 951 booksellers, the most at a Winter Institute ever, and included a sizable international contingent. Panels, keynotes, and discussions covered myriad topics, ranging from the everyday--spreadsheet mastery and hosting creative events--to industry-wide concerns: the precariousness of the bookstore business model, what can be done to make the Winter Institute and bookselling more representative and inclusive, and the war in Gaza--and if and how the association should engage with that.

For many, the institute was again a time to meet new people, reconnect with longtime friends, have serendipitous moments that are possible only in person, learn about new books and authors, learn more about the tools of the trade, support each other and share ideas, and so much more. We thank the ABA for all the time and effort they put into organizing and running such a complicated event.

See you in Denver!

At the lunchtime author reception: Emma Kass and Sam Kass of the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vt., flanking Shelf Awareness associate editor Elaine Cho, whose debut novel, Ocean's Godori, will be published in April by Hillman Grad Books/Zando.

In April, Ode Books will debut with renowned City Lights bookseller Paul Yamazaki's Reading the Room: A Bookseller's Tale. Pictured: Yamazaki surrounded by (from l.) Jeff Deutsch, executive director of the Seminary Co-op Bookstores and co-publisher of Ode Books; Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash.; and Cheryl McKeon, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.

Dia Montgomery, The Press, Valparaiso, Ind., with Juli Min, author of Shanghailanders, coming from Spiegel & Grau in May.

At the Bookstore Resilience: Stories from Venerable Booksellers session, venerable booksellers talked about how their careers started, what motivates them, how to be resilient and effective, and more. From l.: Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash.; Kris Kleindienst, Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo.; Shirikiana Gerima, Sankofa Video and Books, Washington, D.C.; Janet Jones, Source Booksellers, Detroit, Mich.; and Brein Lopez, Children's Book World, Los Angeles, Calif.

Holiday House, Peachtree, Pixel+Ink, and Candlewick hosted a dinner for booksellers with creators from each publishing house. Top row, from left: Kekla Magoon (The Secret Library), Lauren Castillo (Just Like Millie), Will Hillenbrand (Turtle-Turtle and the Wide, Wide River), Scott Kurtz (Table Titans Club), Karen Walsh (executive director of marketing and publicity, brands & key titles, Candlewick). Bottom row: Jane Hillenbrand (Turtle-Turtle and the Wide, Wide River), Elise Supovitz (executive director, independent retail and Canada sales for Candlewick), Colleen Oakes (Second Favorite Daughters Club 1: Sister Sabotage), Elyse Vincenty (trade marketing manager, Holiday House/Peachtree/Pixel+Ink), Erica Ivy Rodgers (Lady of Steel and Straw), Michelle Montague (executive director, marketing, Holiday House/Peachtree/Pixel+Ink).


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Wi2024: The ABA Community Forum

Booksellers gathered Wednesday morning at Winter Institute 2024 in Cincinnati, Ohio, for the American Booksellers Association's Community Forum. The hour-long event, which has replaced the ABA's Town Hall, saw booksellers call for the association to put its platform and advocacy structure to use in support of Palestine and an immediate ceasefire in Gaza; reaffirm its support for BIPOC booksellers; and radically rethink the bookselling model.

The forum's charged atmosphere was reminiscent of the Town Hall at Winter Institute 12 in Minneapolis, Minn., seven years ago, where booksellers from around the country called for the ABA to diversify its board of directors and take a more proactive role in fostering greater diversity in bookselling.

Far and away the largest topic of conversation yesterday was Palestine. As soon as the floor opened to audience members, a bookseller from Richmond, Va., asked the ABA to show its "vocal and unequivocal support for a free Palestine, an immediate ceasefire, and an end to antisemitism."

ABA CEO Allison Hill (far left) and the board yesterday.

A succession of booksellers, including one from New York City and another from Lincoln, Neb., wondered what sorts of internal conversations the ABA and its board have had about advocacy related to Palestine, and remarked on the absence of any specific panel discussions and speakers regarding the subject at this year's conference. One called it "an elephant in the room," and a bookseller from the Sacramento, Calif., area said she "could not believe" it took some 48 hours at Winter Institute for her to hear someone on stage mention Palestine.

Others, including a bookstore owner from Arkansas and another from Southern California, emphasized that they wanted "actionable steps" they could take as booksellers and, noting the possibility of backlash, harassment, and loss of customers for hosting pro-Palestinian speakers or selling pro-Palestinian books, said they did not feel supported by the ABA in that regard. On the subject of actionable steps, a bookseller read a portion of the open letter by Booksellers for Palestine, which so far has gathered more than 300 signatures.

A bookseller from Richmond, Va., said, "We are doing what we can locally, in our communities, but we are here these days together to harness our strength as our collective, and we are asking you, board members, ABA, as voices of our collective, to speak for us and with us for an end to genocide in Palestine and everywhere." At her invitation to "stand up against genocide," booksellers across the room rose to their feet, with a few chanting "free Palestine."

Danny Caine, board member and co-owner of the Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kan., stressed that the board was "here to listen and we are listening," and apologized for the "lack of urgency" on the subject, saying that the comments during the forum as well as during the previous days of the conference have "renewed our urgency" in discussing it.

ABA CEO Allison Hill said she sees the association's role as "providing you all with support," and when it came to conference programming, the team had tried to "thread" relevant educational programming, such as anti-racist training and de-escalation training, throughout the schedule.

The owner of a Black bookstore in Minnesota took the floor to say that it was "not enough" to simply invite Black people and people of color to these events and ask them to sit on panels and boards if, at the end of the day, "all of the content of this week is still aimed towards white people." Throughout the entire week, she continued, people of color have seemed like an "afterthought," and she noted that in rep pick sessions, there would be long stretches of time during which she did not hear about a single book written by a non-white author. She called for the ABA to "do better."

The founder and owner of a Black bookstore and creative space in Los Angeles, Calif., said she had "felt very invisible" at both this Winter Institute and the previous year's conference, and pointed out that while she has seen some "incremental change," it is not enough. She acknowledged considering if it would even be worthwhile attending Wi again and asked, if the ABA truly does want a more diverse membership, what can be done "beyond being on a committee?"

There were also calls for bookselling to explore ways to "move away from capitalism," as well as radically "rethink fulfillment and terms." On the subject of alternative models and futures for bookselling, Jeff Deutsch, a board member and executive director of Chicago's Seminary Co-op Bookstores, the first not-for-profit bookstore whose mission is bookselling, said he and other members of the board are deeply interested in the subject, and would love to hear from anyone with thoughts as to alternative models. --Alex Mutter

*Editors' Note: Given the potential for harassment both online and off, Shelf Awareness has chosen to omit the names of many of the booksellers who spoke during the Community Forum. Should booksellers who recognize their words wish to have their name and bookstore mentioned, please reach out to alex@shelf-awareness.com.


Glendora Bookshop, Buchanan, Mich., Plans March Grand Opening

After a limited opening during the holiday season, Glendora Bookshop in Buchanan, Mich., has reopened and is planning for a March grand opening, Leader Publications reported.

Located at 110 E. Front St., the bookstore carries general-interest titles for children, teens, and adults with an emphasis on inclusivity and diverse voices and backgrounds. While the inventory is all-new at the moment, owner Carla Meyer does plan to add a small used selection eventually, to make sure there are books available at many different prices.

"It's important to me to have a wide range of representation," Meyer told Leader Publications. "I think bookstores need to be a place where multiple voices are found. I feel one of the values I have is to amplify everybody or bring the voices here. I feel like we've kind of struck a pretty good balance of things that are popular and things that maybe people might pick up and discover."

Meyer plans to celebrate the store's grand opening with a few days' worth of celebrations, from Thursday, March 21, to Sunday, March 24. Going forward, she also wants to host book clubs, author talks, and other events.

Prior to opening her bookstore, Meyer was an English and art teacher, and also had experience working in bookstores and in the publishing industry. She noted that though she's never owned a small business before, she has experience with books, and with "bringing people together and kind of creating a hub for the town."


International Update: Bouquinistes Win Paris Olympics; RISE Report on E-Commerce Platforms

French President Emmanuel Macron has intervened in a controversial battle to remove the bouquinistes, the legendary Parisian booksellers, from the banks of the river Seine for the upcoming Olympic Games. France24 reported that the new ruling allows hundreds of booksellers, who operate from dark green boxes by the river, to stay at their historic locations. They had been set to be temporarily removed July 26, ahead of the Olympics opening ceremony on the Seine.

The head of the Cultural Association of Booksellers of Paris had compared the removal efforts to a "tooth extraction" and the organization announced last month that it would launch legal efforts to stop the process.

Macron "has asked the interior minister and the Paris prefect's office that all of the booksellers are preserved and that none of them are forced to move," a statement from the president's office said, adding that the decision came after "no consensual and reassuring solution" could be found with the traders.

The city's police, overseen by the government-appointed prefect, had ordered the removal of some 600 of the 900 book kiosks over security concerns. France24 noted that moving the booksellers was also seen as a way of increasing the space for spectators on the banks of the river where around 300,000 ticketed fans are set to watch the show."

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The European & International Booksellers Federation has published a RISE Industry Insights research paper on E-Commerce Platforms for Independent Bookshops, EIBF's Newsflash reported. The publication delves into e-commerce platforms tailored for independent booksellers in three countries: Libris in the Netherlands, Todostuslibros in Spain, and IndieCommerce in the U.S. 

EIBF noted that until recently, online sales "only represented a moderate share of the revenues of many independent bookshops. However, the global Covid-19 pandemic provided a shrill wake-up call for many regarding the benefits of having an online shop."

The report highlights a surge in new bookshops joining e-commerce platforms, while also outlining how these platforms provide crucial access to the online market. It also shows that customers are interested in shopping online through independent bookshops, even after the end of the pandemic, which emphasizes that e-commerce is not only for those large market players: there is a place and role to play for local independent bookshops, too. 
  
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While Seoul "might be a large, sprawling metropolis, finding places where readers can buy new and used English books isn't easy," Korea JoongAng Daily noted in showcasing four independent bookstores across the city "where you can meet curated selections of English books, buy used books for a bargain, and perhaps socialize with other literature lovers through opportunities like book clubs and gatherings." The indies featured include:

Itaewon Books in Itaewon-dong, which the Seoul Metropolitan Government designated "a Seoul Future Heritage spot, recognizing it as a tangible asset worth passing on to future generations."

Sehwa's English Bookstore in Gireum-dong, a "small but charming bookstore specializing in English books [that] opened in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic and boasts a quaint vibe, along with curated selections of books by the owner, Park Se-hwa."

Post Poetics in Hannam-dong, a bookstore selling only English-language arts books in the visual arts, fashion, film, architecture, photography, and music genres that "sits at the center of the hip Hangangjin area off of Itaewon in Yongsan District."

Ink N Feather in Seocho-dong, Korea's largest English books-only bookstore, featuring "more than 40,000 kinds of English books, with an extensive collection in the children's and young adult genres and other educational books." --Robert Gray


Notes

Image of the Day: Picture Book Bonanza at Books of Wonder

Books of Wonder in New York City hosted a Picture Book Bonanza recently, featuring author/illustrators Lisbeth Checo (Natural Me), Karen Gray Ruelle (Jump for Joy), Sean Qualls (Baby Be), and Naoko Stoop (I Drew a Heart). photo: Ellie.


Storefront Window Display: Square Books

"Did you know that the New Orleans locals tend to call the season 'Carnival' and, to the rest of the world, the last two weekends leading up to Tuesday are 'Mardi Gras?' " Square Books, Oxford, Miss., asked in showcasing the store's front window display. "Check out our festive window at Square Books, indulge in these wonderful books and que la fête commence!"


Personnel Changes at Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

In the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group:

Kelsey Curtis joins Vintage as senior publicist. She formerly worked in publicity at DK US.

Sara Hayet joins Doubleday as publicist. She formerly was an associate publicist at Zando and earlier worked at FSG/Picador.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Billy Dee Williams on the Kelly Clarkson Show

Tomorrow:
Good Morning America: Mike Todd, author of Damaged but Not Destroyed: From Trauma to Triumph (WaterBrook, $27, 9780593444887).

Drew Barrymore Show: Jon Kung, author of Kung Food: Chinese American Recipes from a Third-Culture Kitchen (Clarkson Potter, $35, 9780593578179).

Kelly Clarkson Show: Billy Dee Williams, author of What Have We Here?: Portraits of a Life (Knopf, $32, 9780593318607).


This Weekend on Book TV: Yaroslav Trofimov on Our Enemies Will Vanish

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, February 17
9:30 a.m. Cliff Sloan, author of The Court at War: FDR, His Justices, and the World They Made (PublicAffairs, $32.50, 9781541736481). (Re-airs Sunday at 9:30 p.m.)

2 p.m. Ronald C. White, author of On Great Fields: The Life and Unlikely Heroism of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Random House, $35, 9780525510086).

4:40 p.m. Fergus M. Bordewich, author of Klan War: Ulysses S. Grant and the Battle to Save Reconstruction (Knopf, $35, 9780593317815).

Sunday, February 18
8 a.m. Philip K. Howard, author of Everyday Freedom: Designing the Framework for a Flourishing Society (Rodin Books, $19.99, 9781957588209). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m.)

8:40 a.m. Yaroslav Trofimov, author of Our Enemies Will Vanish: The Russian Invasion and Ukraine's War of Independence (Penguin Press, $32, 9780593655184). (Re-airs Sunday at 8:40 p.m.)

10 a.m. Andrew S. Curran, co-editor of Who’s Black and Why?: A Hidden Chapter from the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race (‎Belknap Press, $29.95, 9780674244269). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

4:10 p.m. Michael J. Gerhardt, author of The Law of Presidential Impeachment: A Guide for the Engaged Citizen (NYU Press, $24.95, 9781479824694).

6:30 p.m. Senator Jeff Merkley, co-author of Filibustered!: How to Fix the Broken Senate and Save America (‎The New Press, $27.99, 9781620977989).



Books & Authors

Awards: Southern Book Winners

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has named the winners of the Southern Book Prize, honoring "the best Southern book of the year" as nominated by Southern indie booksellers and voted on by their customers. Winners receive a donation in their name to the charity or nonprofit of their choice. The 25th anniversary Southern Book Prize winners are:

Fiction
Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (Harper)
"Ann Patchett does it again! Tom Lake is so good it's like eating a favorite dessert. Do you gobble it up quickly, or slowly savor it so that it lasts longer? I would give a million stars to this one." --Monie Henderson, Square Books, Oxford, Miss.

Nonfiction
The Comfort of Crows by Margaret Renkl (Spiegel & Grau)
"You will want to plant something, feed something, preserve something, and protect something all at the same time. You don't have to be a nature lover to read this book, but you will be by the time you finish it." --Mary Patterson, The Little Bookshop, Midlothian, Va.

Children's & YA
When Sea Becomes Sky by Gillian McDunn (Bloomsbury Children's Books)
"I was devastated for myself and every character I had met along the way while reading this wonderfully crafted story. This book will rip your heart out and put it back together perfectly." --Rayna Nielsen, Blue Cypress Books, New Orleans, La.

Patchett, who asked for her award money to be donated to PEN America said, "Huge thanks to all the indie booksellers who've made this book a success. I'm so grateful to you for putting Tom Lake into readers' hands. This is the nicest Valentine ever."

Renkl, whose prize goes to prize will go to Homegrown National Park, said, "There is a special sweetness to the Southern Book Prize that makes it nearly impossible to find adequate words of thanks. To know that a book has been chosen by booksellers, who read everything, and by readers, who have so many claims on their time and attention--could there be any celebration more heart-lifting to an author? Oh, my dear friends in independent bookstores across the South: Thank you, thank you, thank you."  

McDunn, whose prize will go to support the Emily K. Center in Durham, N.C., commented: "I've known for a while now that not much is better than having the warmth and support of Southern booksellers and readers, and so it feels like this award is the frosting on an already delicious cake. I am proud to be a part of the rich literary tradition of our region and honored to have When Sea Becomes Sky chosen from a list of so many wonderful books. My endless thanks, gratitude, and appreciation to those who have cheered along this book of my heart." 

The awards celebration includes the Southern Book Prize Rafflet--the winner receives a collection of prize finalists and winning titles--as well as a Social Media Scavenger Hunt on Instagram, where participants can win a gift card to the participating bookstore of their choice. This year's raffle winner is Tonya Schur, a customer of Books to Be Red in Ocracoke, N.C. Susan Hansen, a customer of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn., is the scavenger hunt winner and will receive a $100 gift card to the bookstore.


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, February 20:

Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-reum, trans. by Shanna Tan (Bloomsbury, $28.99, 9781639732425) is a Korean slice-of-life novel about a woman who opens a bookstore.

Ours: A Novel by Phillip B. Williams (Viking, $32, 9780593654828) is a work of magical realism about a conjuror who frees slaves in 1830s Arkansas.

End of Story: A Novel by A.J. Finn (Morrow, $30, 9780062678454) is a thriller about a detective fiction expert and a dying mystery novelist.

The Chaos Agent by Mak Greaney (Berkley, $30, 9780593548141) is books 13 in the Gray Man thriller series.

A Step Past Darkness: A Novel by Vera Kurian (Park Row, $30, 9780778310761) follows six high school crime witnesses into adulthood.

Saving 6 by Chloe Walsh (Bloom, $14.99, 9781464215995) is the third book in the Boys of Tommen YA series, focusing on popular characters Aoife and Joey.

A Tempest of Tea by Hafsah Faizal (Farrar, $20.99, 9780374389406) is a YA fantasy featuring a criminally minded young woman, a heist, and vampires.

The Great Wave: The Era of Radical Disruption and the Rise of the Outsider by Michiko Kakutani (Crown, $30, 9780525574996) explores the chaotic changes engulfing the modern world.

Troubled: A Memoir of Foster Care, Family, and Social Class by Rob Henderson (Gallery, $28.99, 9781982168537) is a coming-of-age memoir about growing up in foster care.

Why We Remember: Unlocking Memory's Power to Hold on to What Matters by Charan Ranganath (Doubleday, $30, 9780385548632) examines new scientific understandings of memory.

Splinters: Another Kind of Love Story by Leslie Jamison (Little, Brown, $29, 9780316374880) is a memoir about a failed marriage and maternal love.

Paperbacks:
Leopard's Hunt by Christine Feehan (Berkley, $9.99, 9780593638767).

Misunderstood Vegetables: How to Fall in Love with Sunchokes, Rutabaga, Eggplant and More by Becky Selengut and Clare Barboza (Countryman Press, $25.99, 9781682688038).

Sisters of Fortune: A Novel of the Titanic by Anna Lee Huber (Kensington, $17.95, 9781496742698).

A Smoking Bun: A Bakeshop Mystery by Ellie Alexander (St. Martin's, $9.99, 9781250854421).

The Still Point by Tammy Greenwood (Kensington, $17.95, 9781496739339).


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels: A Novel by Janice Hallett (Atria, $28.99, 9781668023396). "Sometimes you just need a twisting, British-set mystery--this is the perfect book for that reading mood! It unfolds in layers, told through transcripts and messages, raising questions to the very riveting end." --Caitlin Doggart, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Chatham, Mass.

True North: A Novel by Andrew J. Graff (Ecco, $30, 9780063161412). "Andrew Graff shines again in True North. Join the Brecht family as they navigate the rapids of river, marriage, and their future as they try and save a family-owned rafting company and come to terms with what's truly important in their lives." --Betsy Von Kerens, The Bookworm of Omaha, Omaha, Neb.

Paperback
City Under One Roof: A Novel by Iris Yamashita (Berkley, $17, 9780593336694). "I couldn't help feeling claustrophobic with the closed in atmosphere of the setting and being cut off from the outside world. It's sinister as almost everyone is hiding from something, but you don't know what, or who, to trust. Loved it!" --Eileen McGervey, One More Page Books, Arlington, Va.

Ages 4 to 8
Love Is My Favorite Color by Nina Laden, illus. by Melissa Castrillon (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman, $18.99, 9781665913096). "What a lovely little celebration of a book! The words are sweet and warm, but the best part is the illustration. The stunning palette and fluid motion makes every spread a feast for the eyes! A good gift for new babies, a life event, or a well wish." --Claire Margetts, Weller Book Works, Salt Lake City, Utah

Ages 9 to 11
Shark Teeth by Sherri Winston (Bloomsbury Children's Books, $17.99, 9781547608508). "Kira tries her best to be the adult to her younger siblings while dealing with debilitating panic attacks. You'll root for her all the way and cheer when she accepts help and puts herself first. An excellent middle grade look at some tough stuff." --Kathleen Carey, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.

Teen Readers
Out of Our League: 16 Stories of Girls in Sports, edited by Dahlia Adler and Jennifer Iacopelli (Feiwel & Friends, $20.99, 9781250810717). "This book is a knockout. All of the stories have so much heart and beauty. The representation across these pages proves there are strong girls of every race, culture, ability, and background who will fight for greatness in sports and in life." --Sam Butler, Bright Side Bookshop, Flagstaff, Ariz.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: The Alternatives

The Alternatives by Caoilinn Hughes (Riverhead, $28 hardcover, 352p., 9780593545003, April 16, 2024)

With talented writers like Sally Rooney and Colin Barrett among them, there's no shortage of fine young Irish novelists working today. And any such list must include Caoilinn Hughes, whose third novel in only six years, The Alternatives, is yet another example of her gift for illuminating the dark places in the lives of dysfunctional, but deeply sympathetic, families.

Hughes (Orchid & the Wasp; The Wild Laughter) takes as her subject the four Flattery sisters. Three are PhDs and college professors: Olwen, an earth scientist at the University of Galway who's driven by her concern over climate change; Rhona, a political scientist at Trinity College Dublin, and one of the world's leading scholars of deliberative democracy; and Nell, the youngest, a struggling adjunct philosophy professor at three colleges in Connecticut. The fourth, Maeve, is a celebrity chef and cookbook author living on a houseboat in London. She and Nell collaborate on Instagram videos entitled "Meals and Meditations" that have attracted a large, enthusiastic following.

Rhona, Maeve, and Nell unite when Olwen disappears on her bicycle one rainy October evening, leaving behind her partner and his two young sons. They track her to a farmhouse in the north of Ireland, where she's established a life off the grid as her reaction to onrushing environmental destruction, and it's there that the quartet excavate some of the remains of their collective past, including their shared grief over the deaths of their parents when they were teenagers.

But as Hughes reveals in a story that daringly features a two-act drama amid its prose narrative, the other Flattery women, all now in their 30s, are dealing with equally vexing present-day problems. Nell, who is struggling to escape poverty by ascending to the tenure track, suffers from a mysterious ailment that's robbing her of feeling in her lower extremities. Maeve has to respond to a publisher who's demanding the return of its advance on her somber third book about cooking in a time of food shortages, while trying to decide whether to ask Halim, an undocumented immigrant mime who lives in a tent on her houseboat, to be the sperm donor for her first child. And Rhona wrestles with the challenges of enlisting ordinary people to effect political change, most notably in Northern Ireland.

If all this sounds a bit chaotic, it's anything but that in Hughes's assured hands. The Flattery sisters, a "faulty batch," as Olwen regards herself and her siblings in all their charming chaos, are vivid and appealing characters in this bighearted, wise, and frequently sharply funny novel. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: This novel about four Irish sisters considering their pasts and pondering the future showcases the author's gift for illuminating the dark places in dysfunctional, but deeply sympathetic, families.


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