Michael's Staff Favorites

Michael staff photo

 

I'm the store's events coordinator and publicist. A writer and musician in my spare time, I live in Southwest Portland with my wife and two cats.

I'm a fan of contemporary novels and short stories. Here are some of the latest books I've loved, followed by some of my all-time favorites:

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Migrations: A Novel Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781250204035
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Flatiron Books - July 6th, 2021

After writing YA books early in her career, Charlotte McConaghy leaps into the work of adult fiction with Migrations, her stunning novel about Franny and her obsessive quest to follow the world's last Arctic terns across the hemispheres. Set in a near future in which almost all animal life is extinct, Franny hitches a ride aboard one of the last remaining fishing boats. Its captain, Ennis, is a fellow obsessive: he's looking for one last "golden catch" before he retires. As we follow this ill-fated oceanic journey, Franny reveals more and more of her troubled past: her father's in prison, her mother left her as a child, her impulsive marriage to an ornithology professor is complicated by her restless soul, and Franny herself has spent time behind bars. McConaghy weaves these storylines brilliantly, her writing is poetic, and her characters are emotionally rich and deeply inhabited. This novel is breathtaking.


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Wayward Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780593318737
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - July 6th, 2021

In Wayward, Eat the Document author Dana Spiotta once again deftly mixes the personal and the political. In the post-election malaise of late 2016, fifty-something Samantha Raymond leaves her stagnant marriage to purchase her dream home: an old fixer-upper in Syracuse. Sam is forced to balance her liberal ideals with the very real homeless population in her new neighborhood. She is also deeply worried about her mother's failing health. Meanwhile, Sam's teenage daughter, Ally, refuses to reply to her mother's texts. Feeling both abandoned and liberated by Sam's departure, Ally deepens her relationship with an older man. Sam and Ally remain incommunicado until a series of escalations throws mother and daughter back together again. Both women are strong and individual characters. Spiotta has painted a highly nuanced portrait of a contemporary family on the brink, and her poignant observations on politics, social issues, middle class, midlife, and love provide an added spark to Wayward that only Dana Spiotta could ignite.


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Blacktop Wasteland: A Novel Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781250252692
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Flatiron Books - June 1st, 2021

S. A. Cosby's Blacktop Wasteland is a high-caliber literary thriller. Beauregard "Bug" Montage is an upstanding father, husband, and mechanic in a small Southern town. However, when Bug finds himself in dire financial straits, he returns to his criminal past as a getaway driver, for one final heist. Of course, the job doesn't go quite according to plan, and a host of bad dudes are soon threatening everything in life that Bug values most. Cosby is a clear writer with deep empathy for his characters, equally adept at evoking touching family scenes and blood-racing action. Blacktop Wasteland is superb.


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Klara and the Sun: A novel Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780593318171
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Knopf - March 2nd, 2021

A wonderful and deeply empathic novel about humanity, from the point of view of an android: an artificial friend of a sickly teenage girl. Driven by the interactions of Ishiguru's fully realized characters, this is both a quiet family drama and a subtly-drawn sci-fi dystopia that is nonetheless brimming with hope and kindness. A wonderful read.


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Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780062993151
Availability: Backordered - availability and arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Harper Wave - June 15th, 2021

This thoroughly researched and very readable book is a fascinating exporation of how people use words to gain authority over others. From literal cults such as the Manson Family and NXIVM to borderline cults (multi-level marketing schemes) to merely cultish institutions (certain fitness centers), Montell is a smart and entertaining guide to the power language has to lure in followers and, sometimes, do real harm.


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The Girl with the Louding Voice: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781524746094
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Dutton - February 23rd, 2021

What an intensely moving and beautiful novel. The Girl with the Louding Voice tells the story of fourteen-year-old Adunni, a girl from a Nigerian village whose worthless father sells her into marriage with an older man who already has two other wives. When a tragedy occurs in the household, Adunni believes she'll be held responsible and executed by the village chief. And so she flees, only to be sold once more into servitude, this time as the housekeeper for a wealthy fabric designer in Lagos. Despite the cruel treatment of her new "employer," Adunni is amazingly resilient, very bright, and has a generous heart. These qualities are recognized by a kindly neighbor with progressive views who secretly takes Adunni under her wing. But will Adunni ever be granted freedom to live her own life? The Girl with the Louding Voice is full of riveting tension and beautiful writing. This was among the very best novels of 2020.


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Sharks in the Time of Saviors: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781250787316
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Picador - March 2nd, 2021

Sharks in the Time of Saviors, the debut novel from Hawaiian author Kawai Strong Washburn, is a wonderful novel about family that also deftly tackles issues of race, poverty, and culture. Told from four points of view––siblings Noa, Dean, and Kaui, and their mother––this is largely the story of how the extraordinary abilities of one family member impacts the fates of everyone else in the family. As a child, Noa acquires healing powers after being spared during a shark attack. But getting treated as the golden child drives a wedge between Noa and his siblings. Despite Dean's basketball skills and Kaui's academic prowess, both struggle mightily with self-esteem, along with the displacement that comes from attending college on the mainland. Noa has his own struggles: as a healer, how does he balance his obligations to humanity, to family, to himself? Back in Hawai'i, their mother does her best to cope with her own problems and to guide her children from afar. When tragedy occurs, will it bring them closer together or drive them further apart? Washburn inhabits each of his characters deeply. He puts them through the wringer, but treats them lovingly as well. This is a beautiful story that is unlike any other while also exploring universal themes. A triumph!


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The Night Always Comes: A Novel Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780063035089
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Harper - April 6th, 2021

I was deeply moved by The Night Always Comes, Willy Vlautin's novel about two days in the life of a person on the brink. Lynette is in her early thirties and lives with her mother and her developmentally disabled brother. She's been working three jobs so that she and her mom can buy their ramshackle house in Portland, Oregon. But, when her mom threatens to back out of the deal, Lynette spends one desperate night driving all over town, trying to collect the money owed to her by friends and clients. At every turn, people lie to her. They throw her troubled past in her face. They threaten to kill her. Vlautin's Hemingway-esque prose keeps the pages turning, as did my great sympathy for Lynette. She's had such a hard life and is trying her best to build a better future. This is also a story about how gentrification in Portland has pushed longtime residents to the margins. The odds are heavily stacked against Lynette. I rooted for her throughout every heart-pounding page of The Night Always Comes, and so will you.


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Life Events: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781250798565
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Picador - July 27th, 2021

In her novel Life Events, Karolina Waclawiak explores disconnection and grief in contemporary Los Angeles. Evelyn doesn't want to feel anything: not the sorrow of her father's imminent death from alcoholism, not the slow ripping apart of her marriage, and not the disappointment of career failure. She numbs herself with drug and drink, but knows she needs something more. While looking for support groups, she comes across a training seminar for exit guides for the dying and signs up. "How do you avoid pain?" When this question is posed to Evelyn during the seminar, she begins the messy journey of self-confrontation that propels the novel: into marriage counseling, into the homes of her terminally ill clients, into a car trip with her dysfunctional parents, into a cheap motel room with a fellow guide, into a cheesy afterlife convention, and into the vast emptiness of Death Valley. Waclawiak is brutally tender with her characters, writes insightfully about her themes, and evokes the Southwest landscape beautifully. Life Events is a novel that continues to resonate long after the final page.


Winter Counts: A Novel Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062968951
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Ecco - July 6th, 2021

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We Run the Tides: A Novel Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780062936233
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Ecco - February 9th, 2021

We Run the Tides is a wonderfully written, deeply insightful, often funny, often heartbreaking, and endearingly quirky coming-of-age novel. In 1980s San Francisco, 14-year-old Eulabee struggles with the typical issues of that age––strained friendships and sexual awakening. But, in the hands of a writer as skilled and inventive as Vendela Vida, these topics feel utterly fresh and completely unique And Eulabee is a compelling narrator: a good and smart person whose naiveté gets her into all kinds of trouble. Much of this trouble is instigated by her best friend, the precocious and outrageous Maria Fabiola. Still more trouble is caused by Maria Fabiola's sensational disappearance, which Eulabee suspects is yet another of her friend's deceptions. Along with this compelling plot, the reader is also treated to Vida's wonderfully detailed depictions of Eulabee's family, the foibles of her all-girls school, the seaside neighborhood of great old houses, and the rocky beach where the titular tides crash and pull. What a wonderful read!


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Volcanoes, Palm Trees & Privilege: Essays on Hawai'i Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781732610309
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Overcup Press - April 16th, 2019

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Infinite Country: A Novel Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781982159467
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster - March 2nd, 2021

Infinnite Country is a lovely and highly nuanced novel about Latin American immigration and its consequences for three generations of one Columbian family. Here is my coworker Mal's perfect encapsulation of its streangths and charms: "Infinite Country begins with a bang: we ride shot-gun to fifteen year old Talia's escape from a correctional facility and race with her across Colombia to reach her father, Mauro. Beginning with the choice that put Talia in the facility, it becomes clear early that the core of this book is choices: those borne from desperation, desire, youth, and hope. Each decision that Talia’s family makes pulls them apart and knits them together again across Colombian and American borders. Infinite Country is poignant and Engel uses lush descriptions mixed with Colombian mythology and history to bring these characters to life. By the end we can understand the justifications behind the worst and hardest of their decisions. This book will make your heart ache and will stay with you long after reading."


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The Recent East: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780374247935
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: MCD - March 9th, 2021

In this excellent debut novel, we experience multiple deacdes of life in East Germany through the eyes of Beate Haas and her two children, Michael and Adela. Beate and her parents defected from the East in the '60s and evetually settled in America. Following German reunification in 1990, Beate receives a letter that she can reclaim her house in the sleepy coastal town of her East German childhood. Most of the story focuses on the family's struggles to acclimate to this new environment, which is nothing like how Beate remembered it. Meanwhile, the upheaval drives a wedge between teenaged Michael and Adela, who had been very close before the move. Michael comes out as gay and adapts recklessly to this new town of abandoned houses and partying youth, while Adela hides in her room, reading books about the Holocaust and other injustices. Their German cousins helps the family to settle, yet also complicate the fragile dynamics at play. Will one drastic act forever drive the Haas family apart? Propelled by fascinating and fully realized characters, Thaomas Grattan's The Recent East is wonderful from start to finish.


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City of a Thousand Gates: A Novel Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780063011472
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Harper - February 2nd, 2021

In her debut novel, international journalist Rebecca Sacks uses a cast of fascinating characters to offer readers her keen insights and earned wisdom on the Israeli-Palestine conflict. A writer of great empathy, Sacks exposes the hearts of those living on both sides of the borders that divide the region. Connecting most of the characters is a German journalist named Vera, who's covering the story of a Palestinian boy who was savagely beaten by Israeli teenagers as an act of revenge for the murder of an Israeli girl. The threat of violence permeates these pages. Mostly, though, this novel is about the tenuous links between humanely rendered people––the links between friends, within families, and across borders. City of a Thousand Gates is terrific.


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The Lightness: A Novel Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062905338
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - June 22nd, 2021

The Lightness is the debut novel from Lit Hub editor Emily Temple. Not only does she recognize good writing, but Temple also writes beautifully, herself. I enjoyed this book for its attention to detail as much as for its story, about a teenage girl, Olivia, who signs herself up for a meditation retreat that is effectively a summer camp for other troubled teen girls. Yes, Olivia is troubled: by the disappearance of her Buddhist father at that same retreat and by the atrocious behavior of her mother, a sculptor. While looking for clues to her father's whereabouts, Olivia falls in with an outsider clique of girls who seek the key to achieving levitation. It's a dangerous game these girls are playing, involving a nighttime precipice, bloodletting, starvation, seduction, and lies. Temple explores all of these themes with prose that is fresh and attentive, bringing her characters fully alive. A wonderful novel.


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The Inland Sea: A Novel Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781646220175
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Catapult - January 12th, 2021

I loved this novel from Autralian author Madeliene Watts. A young woman in Melbourne drops out of grad school and takes a job relaying emergency calls, while she and her coworkers watch the effects of climate collapse on muted TV screens. She drinks too much and is sleeping with an ex-boyfriend who's in a relationship with a friend of hers. She's haunted by childhood memories of her drunken and abusive father, and she's fascinated by her great-great-great-great-grandfather's fruitless search for a mythic sea in the dessicated center of Australia. This novel is propelled by the narrator's keen observations and associations, by her particular views of a world in dire straits. What makes her compelling is how remarkably self-perceptive she can be while acting so recklessly, so thoughtlessly. As a lifelong friend of hers observes, she always swims out too far. You will spend this novel at the water's edge, nervously watching to see whether the tide will finally pull her under.


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A Crooked Tree: A Novel Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780063049840
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Harper - January 5th, 2021

This wonderful debut novel is set in rural Pennsylvania during the early '80s. Narrated by 15-year-old Libby, this is a story of tangled lives and simmering danger. When Libby's 12-year-old sister Ellen pushes their exhausted mother over the brink, Ellen is forced to get out of the car and walk the remaining miles home alone in the dark. Her narrow escape from a predatory stranger kicks off a series of impulsive decisions from Libby, her older siblings, and mercurial local bad boy Wilson McVay. The adults are equally flawed in this novel: neglectful, adulterous, oblivious. With poetry and grit, Una Mannion evokes this rural world and its inhabitants, while investigating class structures, the backdrop of Reaganomics, and spinning a page-turner about coming-of-age in desperate circumstances. A thoroughly engrossing read!


Natural History: A Novel Cover Image
By Carlos Fonseca, Megan McDowell (Translated by)
$17.00
ISBN: 9781250798541
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Picador - July 13th, 2021

"Tragedy or farce?" The narrator of Carlos Fonseca's novel asks this question as a sort of mantra throughout Natural History. When it comes to art and artists, the line between the two is often blurred. Or such is the experience of our narrator––a museum curator––as he unravels the family drama behind his former friendship with mysterious fashion designer Giovanna Luxembourg, who has died young and bequeathed him a series of documents. From there, Fonseca guides us through the obsessive lives of Giovanna's eccentric parents, an actress and a photographer, and the family's pivotal excursion into the jungles of South America in search of spiritual enlightenment. We also make trips to a nearly abandoned mining town where the earth is ablaze and to a courtroom in Puerto Rico where a gringa with a hidden past is on trial for manipulating the stock market with falsified press releases. Is this art or is it crime? Tragedy or farce? You'll have to read Natural History and decide for yourself.


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Dominicana: A Novel Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781250205940
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Flatiron Books - August 25th, 2020

Turning to her mother's immigration story for inspiration for her latest novel, Angie Cruz has created a tender-hearted and inspiring character in Ana, the fifteen-year-old narrator of Dominicana. In 1965, when Ana is fifteen, her poor parents in rural Dominican Republic push her into marrying Juan Ruiz, an older man with ambitions. A contract is understood: in exchange for Ana, Juan will develop her parents' land and help the rest of her family immigrate to America. In an instant, teenage Ana is whisked off to a tiny apartment in New York City. She doesn't speak English and doesn't know a single person aside from Juan, who is controlling, abusive, frequently absent, and probably having an affair. In another author's hands, Juan could become a caricature, purely monstrous. But Cruz has created a fully realized human––an unlikable human, yet one whose deep flaws can be understood. His moods are realistically volatile, which makes him all the more terrifying to Ana. When she becomes pregnant, the walls close even more tightly around her. It's only when Juan is trapped in the DR during a military coup that Ana has the freedom to begin forging a life for herself. She explores her Washington Heights neighborhood and takes English lessons at the church across the street. But she also falls in love with Juan's kid brother, Cesar, who is watching over Ana while Juan is away. Throughout the novel, her already complicated life becomes more and more complicated. Cruz is a superb writer on every level: plot, character, backstory, setting, mood, psychology. You will find yourself utterly immersed in the wonderful Dominicana.


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Hurricane Season Cover Image
By Fernanda Melchor, Sophie Hughes (Translated by)
$16.95
ISBN: 9780811230735
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: New Directions - October 6th, 2020

Mexican author Fernanda Melchor arrives on U.S. shores like the titular storm of her novel, her first to be translated into English. Her writing is torrential, her sprawling paragraphs equally beautiful and profane. The rotating cast of narrators in Hurricane Season all live in the same small, run-down town. They are brothel madams and strung-out junkies, big dreamers and colossal losers, mothers and husbands and girlfriends and sons. All of their fragile lives are connected by the Witch, who is equally renown for her promiscuity as for her potions. And everyone knows––or thinks they know––about the treasure locked away in the Witch's decrepit house. For Melchor's hard-luck characters, that temptation proves too strong to resist. Just like the visceral and heartbreaking Hurricane Season, itself.


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Disappearing Earth Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780525436225
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Vintage - April 7th, 2020

This novel about two sisters who are abducted in Russia's isolated Kamchatka Peninsula is both a literary thriller and a kaleidoscopic character study. Author Julia Phillips delves into the messy lives of everyone connected to the missing girls: relatives, friends, search and rescue volunteers, police detectives. Through each character's story, we gain a deeper understanding of dysfunctions both interpersonal and societal––and we get closer to the truth of what happene to the missing girls. An exquisite debut novel.


These Women: A Novel Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062656391
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Ecco - April 13th, 2021

An astonishing and gritty portrait of the interconnected lives of women in South LA: prostitutes and party girls, mothers and daughters and wives, and the only cop in the city who cares about doing her job well. Pochoda does a masterful job of embodying her characters through their narrations. A gripping and engrossing novel, from its grisly beginning to its sensational final pages.


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The Son of Good Fortune: A Novel Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062059598
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Ecco - April 27th, 2021

In Lysley Tenorio's sweet and quirky debut novel, an undocumented teenage Filipino boy named Excel and his mother (a former B-movie stunt artist) are living in poverty in the San Francisco suburbs. The story begins with Excel's disgraced return home, following several months of having lived with his girlfriend in an artists' colony in the Southern California desert. While there, Excel made some costly mistakes, including with his now maybe ex-girlfriend. To fix things, he needs lots of money. But his old job at the crappy pizza joint is humiliating and pays poorly. His best shot at quick cash is to help his mom with one of her online dating scams, in which she cons sympathetic and lovesick men into sending her money. What could possibly go wrong? Heartfelt and brimming with wonderfully odd details, The Son of Good Fortune is a highly enjoyable read.


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The Cactus League: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781250785763
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Picador - February 2nd, 2021

Nemens is equally skilled at conjuring the spirit of baseball as she is her cast of characters, all of whose lives pivot around star player Jason Goodyear's troubled spring training campaign. A lively, warm, and probing novel, The Cactus League is a boon for those of who love baseball and well-crafted literary fiction.


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Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead: A Novel Cover Image
By Olga Tokarczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Translated by)
$17.00
ISBN: 9780525541349
Availability: Backordered - availability and arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Riverhead Books - August 11th, 2020

Olga Tokarczuk won the Booker Prize for her intricate and sprawling Flights. This newly translated novel is a completely different kind of work. Taking place entirely on the outskirts of a small Polish village, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead is narrated by Janina, a schoolteacher, astrologer, staunch vegetarian, and resident crank living among a largely patriarchal community. One by one, men begin dying in mysterious circumstances. According to Janina, they've been murdered by animals who are exacting revenge. What's really going on here? This is a wonderful sort-of mystery that's propelled more by its quirky characters than any kind of whodunit plot. Tokarczuk is an astonighly observant writer--perhaps the strongest unifying trait between her diverse works--making this novel a singular joy to read.


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Lights All Night Long: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780525558750
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Penguin Books - February 4th, 2020

In this wonderful and heartbreaking novel, fifteen-year-old Ilya is the best student in the small industrial town in remote Russia where he lives with his mother, his babushka, and his charismatic older brother, Vladimir. Ilya has won a scholarship to study abroad in America; a happy event that coincides with Vladimir being jailed for murder. We follow Ilya as he adjusts to living with a big Christian family in the rural Southern U.S., while also attempting to prove his brother's innocence from afar. In alternating chapters, we see Ilya's life during the year or so leading up to his departure, as Vladimir grows increasingly reckless and distant. Fitzpatrick creates vivid and believable characters, writes palpably of both remote Russia and the American South, and is masterful at slowly building tension throughout the novel. Beautiful, sad, powerful, sweet, and evocative, Lights All Night Long is storytelling at its finest.


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It Would Be Night in Caracas Cover Image
By Karina Sainz Borgo, Elizabeth Bryer (Translated by)
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062936851
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: HarperVia - August 18th, 2020

In this heart-stopping debut novel, Adelaida's mother has just died. All around her, the Venezuelan capital is falling into chaos. The currency is devalued, protesters are gunned down or captured and tortured, and a band of paramilitary thugs is taking over her apartment building. Borgo skillfully interweaves Adelaida's present terror with scenes of her childhood, before Caracas went to hell. What must Adelaida do in order to survive? How will she be able to escape her homeland? Brutality and beauty go hand-in-hand in this compelling tale.


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The Other Americans: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780525436034
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Vintage - March 17th, 2020

This wonderful novel is at once an achingly tender portrait of a grieving family, a muder mystery, a love story, and a nuanced look at immigrant life in America today. Lalami also provides a wonderful setting: a small town in the Morongo Valley of California, near Joshua Tree. Seen through the eyes of a dozen characters, this is an intricately woven story that will leave you feeling a part of this community, this family.


The Story of a New Name: Neapolitan Novels, Book Two Cover Image
By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (Translated by)
$18.00
ISBN: 9781609451349
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Europa Editions - September 3rd, 2013

The entire Neapolitan Quartet is wonderful, but this second book is my favorite. Ferrante captures so well the struggles of this period of the characters' lives: young adulthood.


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The Friend: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780735219458
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Riverhead Books - February 5th, 2019

I agree with the National Book Award committee: Sigrid Nunez's The Friend is a terrific novel. With its cute cover, one could be forgiven for expecting a light read. While Nunez does have a wonderful, dry sense of humor, this novel about inheriting a departed friend's Great Dane is a beautiful and thoughtful meditation on grief. You will love this book.


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Flights Cover Image
By Olga Tokarczuk, Jennifer Croft (Translated by)
$17.00
ISBN: 9780525534204
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Riverhead Books - August 13th, 2019

This is a fascinating and highly imaginative work, weaving together stories and observations about travel and human anatomy (among many other topics) into a surprisingly unified whole. Tomarczuk presents fiction as travelogue, history as story, story as fact. In her deft hands, unrelated tales--of a man who loses his wife and child on an island, or a pioneering anatomist's journey to a lecture hall, or our occasional narrator listening to airport lectures on travel psychology--feel inextricably linked. Maybe it's Tomarczuk's clear prose, fierce intelligence, and dry humor that unify these disparate pieces? Let's just say that she's a very skilled writer, and every finely honed word in Flights is worth absorbing.


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There There Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780525436140
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Vintage - May 7th, 2019

In his kaleidoscopic debut novel, Native American author Tommy Orange captures the "urban Indian" experience through a large cast of characters, all of whom are heading to a massive pow wow in Oakland. Orange writes with deep compasion about his complex characters, flaws and all. This is a wonderful novel.


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Circe Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780316556323
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Back Bay Books - April 14th, 2020

Miller has woven a wonderful novel from the fragments of Circe's life, as culled from various Greek myths. Though probably best known as the witch who turns Odysseus's men to pigs, Circe is also the daughter of the sun god, Helios, and the aunt of Medea. Madeline Miller deconstructs these and others tales, recasting them through the glowing eyes of Circe. Most impressively, Miller brings the goddess-witch fully into being. You will feel as though you're walking with Circe across the island of Aiaia, where she has been banished for eternity. Fortunately, she gets plenty of visitors. Circe is a highly accomplished work that is also a joy to read.


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Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781948226134
Availability: Backordered - availability and arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Catapult - April 2nd, 2019

This smart and enjoyable book explores the many plot structures novels can take. The title itself--Meander, Spiral, Explode--describes three of the main shapes that writer Jane Alison explores, as she dissects works from Tobias Wolff, Marguerite Duras, Philip Roth, Sandra Cisneros, and others. Useful to writers and fascinating for discerning readers, this is a wonderful investigation of how literature works.


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Go, Went, Gone Cover Image
By Jenny Erpenbeck, Susan Bernofsky (Translated by)
$16.95
ISBN: 9780811225946
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: New Directions - September 26th, 2017

In this wonderful and essential novel, Richard is a newly retired professor living in Berlin. When he learns of a group of African immigrants staging a protest, he finds himself drawn to their cause. He meets with the men at their temporary housing facility, he asks them questions, he learns their stories. Gradually, they befriend one another, and Richard does what he can to help them navigate the morass of challenges they face: from dentistry to the constant threat of deportation. This novel is subtly powerful and deeply empathic. A must read for our xenophobic times.


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The Power Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780316547604
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Back Bay Books - January 8th, 2019

Would a world run by women result in a global utopia? This is the question at the heart of The Power, a novel that follows three women--the daughter of a British mobster, an abused Florida teen who hears voices, and an American mayor--who gain the newly awakened ability among females to unleash strong electrical forces from their bodies. A fourth central character--a young, male Nigerian journalist--chronicles the societal changes that unfurl across the world, from women rioting in the streets to more nuanced shifts in government and business, where power tends to corrupt, regardless of gender. Alderman unflinchingly follows her concept into disturbing territories, and the book is all the more successful for it. Smart, entertaining, and enthralling, The Power is a great novel for our times.


Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781501126079
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Scribner - May 8th, 2018

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The Largesse of the Sea Maiden: Stories Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780812988659
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Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - January 8th, 2019

Completed before his death in May 2017, Denis Johnson's second short story collection comes 26 years after his first, Jesus' Son. Fittingly, the pieces in The Largesse of the Sea Maiden are more reflective in tone, longer in the telling, and lighter on the mayhem. What hasn't changed is Johnson's masterful phrasing and his mordant humor. There's still some mayhem, too: characters besieged by ghosts and obsessed with graves. This collection is a welcome final gift from one of the great writers of a generation.


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The Great Believers: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780735223530
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Published: Penguin Books - June 4th, 2019

Makkai's lovely third novel, The Great Believers, is about two close friends, their stories told 30 years apart. In 1985, Yale Tishman is an art gallery development director and a proudly monogamous resident of Boystown, a largely gay neighborhood of Chicago. On the verge of acquiring a set of rare sketches, Yale discovers that his partner is HIV-positive, sending his life into a tailspin. In 2015, Fiona flies to Paris in search of her estranged adult daughter, Claire, who disappeared into a cult years before. Can Fiona ever repair their broken trust? Makkai has woven a rich tapestry of interconnected lives. These characters are so very real, you'll find yourself bereft at the conclusion of this beautiful and bittersweet novel.


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The Far Field Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780802147967
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Published: Grove Press - October 15th, 2019

In this gorgeously written debut novel, Shalini is a young woman living in upper class Bangalore when her mother--a complicated figure in her life--dies. Adrift in her grief, Shalini travels north to Kashmir to try to find Bashir Ahmed, a charming traveling salesman who frequently visited their home when Shalini was a girl, spinning tales and winning her mother's heart. Shalini is, however, terribly naive about the complicated interplay of religion, class, and militancy at play in the region of Kashmir that she visits. When she finally tracks down Bashir Ahmed's family in a small mountainous village, her presence disrupts the delicate balance of their lives, with grave consequences. Seen through the intimate lens of Shalini's interpersonal interactions, The Far Field is a bittersweet examination of privilege and selfishness, of longing and sorrow, of awakening to the world as it truly is.


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Baby's on Fire: Stories Cover Image
$16.45
ISBN: 9781941209158
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(This item cannot be returned.)
Published: Press 53 - May 3rd, 2015

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The Girls: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780812988024
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Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - May 9th, 2017

With Girls, Emma Cline joins the elite club of accomplished debut authors under the age of 30. Set in Marin County in the late 1960s, this is both a coming-of-age story and a retelling of the Manson Family murders. Fourteen-year-old Evie is mostly ignored by her recently divorced parents and is captivated by the arrival in town of a gang of older girls who flaunt their detachment from society's rules. They espouse freedom, but live in squalor and are bound to a magnetic-yet-voltaile guru, who is both reliant upon and envious of a wealthy benefactor. In thrall to Suzanne, the raven-haired leader of the girls. Evie's enmeshment in the cult deepens over a long summer, even as growing tensions between guru and benefactor point toward a violent end. Cline's fresh prose sizzles with rich details and keen insights. This dazzling debut is a must-read.


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Fortune Smiles: Stories Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780812987232
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Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - October 4th, 2016

From the author of The Orphan Master's Son comes this excellent collection of short stories. Some of these are similarly set in North (and South) Korea, while the majority probe the lives of Americans. Dark, funny, inventive, and unflinching, Adam Johnson's stories are masterfully written and deeply human. Fans of Geogre Saunders, take notice.


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A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781250094735
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Published: Picador - August 2nd, 2016

Written over the last four decades of the 20th century, the forty-plus stories collected here are both vivid and lived-in. Lucia Berlin moved all over the Western United States, married twice, raised four sons, experienced wealth and poverty, worked a wide variety of jobs, and battled assorted illnesses. All of these pieces of her life play out in her stories, many of which seem intimately autobiographical. Berlin possessed a rare ability to capture scenery, characters, and emotional states with an economy of language that nonetheless feels rich. These are wonderful slices of life from a master writer finally receiving the accolades she deserves.


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All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781501173219
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Published: Scribner - April 4th, 2017

In this beautiful and bittersweet novel set during World War II, Anthony Doerr tells the parallel tales of  Marie Laure, a blind girl living in occupied France, and Werner, a young German radio enthusiast in the Hitler Youth program. Doerr's portrayal of Marie Laure's relationship with her father, the locksmith at Paris's Museum of Natural History, is tender and true. Werner's journey across Europe, where he helps ferret out resistors, is unflinching and richly detailed. Through these characters, Doerr encapsulates the great horrors of war. Moreover, he weaves a deeply compelling story of lives torn asunder and united.


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Mischling Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780316308090
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Published: Lee Boudreaux / Back Bay Books - May 30th, 2017

In this beautiful and terrifying debut novel, twin twelve-year-old girls Stasha and Pearl are taken to Auschwitz toward the end of World War II, where they become the experimental subjects of Dr. Josef Mengele. Despite this horrifying premise, Affinity Konar imbues her dual narrators with both wondrous innocence and profound inner strength. Also, history tells us that liberation is coming soon ... but soon enough? And what happens then? Gorgeously written and well researched, this novel is among the very best books of 2016.


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Tenth of December: Stories Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780812984255
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Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - January 7th, 2014

One of today's very best story writers returns with Tenth of December, his fourth collection of short fiction. George Saunders builds off the minimalism of Raymond Chandler, but wields far more vibrant and darkly comic tools. The litrtle worlds he creates are vivid, as are the characters who populate them. Whether writing of ordinary suburban pre-teens or convicts in a bizarre psychiatric research facility, Saunders digs into both the pathos and the joy of life.


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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780770436421
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Published: Hogarth - February 4th, 2014

This is a sad, funny, beautifully written, and informative novel about the lives of a few ordinary people struggling to survive during the recent wars in Chechnya.


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The Flamethrowers: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781439142011
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Published: Scribner - January 14th, 2014

In Rachel Kushner's second novel, The Flamethrowers, a young filmmaker moves from Reno to New York in 1977. There, she meets and moves in with Sandro Valera, a Minimalist artist and the black sheep son of a wealthy Italian motorcycle and tire manufacturer. "Reno" (as she's nicknamed) narrates her period of self-discovery in a vividly rendered NYC during perhaps its worst period of decrepitude, but also a very free era for artistic expression. Kushner's philiosophical, political, and psychological insights push this novel forward. Though the plot itself tends to meander a bit, Kushner nails everything else: characters, setting, overarching themes, and wonderful language.


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The Yellow Birds: A Novel Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9780316219341
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Published: Back Bay Books - April 30th, 2013

In The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers disproves the old quote: "War is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror." The stretches of time between acts of violence are most of what occupies this beautifully written novel of the Iraq War. As they await their next mission, the two young privates here may grow restless and weary, but the omnipresent threat of danger is always palpable--while smoking, eating, talking. Powers renders these moments exquisitely, with spare, poetic prose.


A Visit from the Goon Squad Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780307477477
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Published: Anchor - March 22nd, 2011

Told in a series of linked stories, Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad follows a web of lives across the span of several decades. From late '70s San Francisco to a safari in Africa and back to a near-future America, Egan explores her characters through a variety of voices and perspectives. Whatever the scene or stance, these people come vividly alive one chapter at a time, and then echo throughout the novel. A study of inter-connectedness and human nature, this novel is a triumph.


Cryptonomicon Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9780380788620
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Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - May 3rd, 2000

Though typically shelved in sci-fi, Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon is actually a mixture of historical fiction, travel lit, and, in its own deliberate way, technological thriller. Most important, it's flat-out amazing. The novel focuses primarily on a morphine addicted World War II marine, an organ-playing cryptanalyst, and, half a century later, his entrepreneurial computer programmer grandson. The life paths of these characters reverberate across the generations and around the world, from America to Manila, Africa to Scandinavia, jungles to submarines, and luxury hotels to prison cells. Stephenson writes brilliantly about all of it. Smart, fun, and incredibly absorbing, Cryptonomicon has instantly become one of my very favorite books of all time.


Cloud Atlas: A Novel Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780375507250
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Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - August 17th, 2004

David Mitchell might well be my favorite author of the 21st century. His third book, Cloud Atlas, shows off his masterful command of the English language. Comprised of six related stories spanning hundreds of years, each is convincingly told in the style of the era. From the journal of a man aboard a ship somewhere in Oceania in the 19th century to a tale of escape by an artificially intelligent restaurant worker in a future Japan, Mitchell explores his characters with depth and uncovers hidden patterns in the world at large. This novel is a stunning achievement and a great read from one of literature's new masters.


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Zeitoun Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780307387943
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Published: Vintage - June 15th, 2010

In his wonderful portrait of the Lost Boys of Sudan, What Is the What, Dave Eggers bridged the gap between fiction and biography. With Zeitoun, he fully embraces the real, chronicling one man's experience of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Abdulrahman Zeitoun was a middle-aged contractor, loyal husband, loving father, and devout Muslim. When Katrina struck, he stayed in New Orleans to care for his house and business, never anticipating the surreal nightmare that would become of his city. Eggers's keen eye for personal detail amidst a large-scale disaster renders Zeitoun a vivid and mesmerizing portrait of the astonishing conditions in which the residents of New Orleans survived (and perished) in the wake of calamity.


2666: A Novel Cover Image
By Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer (Translated by)
$27.00
ISBN: 9780312429218
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Published: Picador - September 1st, 2009

Completed shortly before his death, Roberto Bolano's 2666 is divided into five parts, all of which are linked by a series of murders of women in the fictional Mexican border town of Santa Teresa. Bolano evokes his settings with a mixture of reportorial spareness and streaks of poetry, as he fully constructs a lived-in city, its inhabitants, and the surrounding desert terrain, all in a style that is both accessible and makes for a rich reading experience. His characters, too, are very knowable. From European professors caught in a love quadrangle, to the Mexican detectives who hunt for the killer (or killers), to the near-fantastical story of the reclusive German author Benno von Archimboldi, Bolano invests each with a deep and flawed humanity. 2666 is astonishing.


Infinite Jest: A Novel -- 20th Anniversary Edition Cover Image
By David Foster Wallace, Tom Bissell (Foreword by)
$22.99
ISBN: 9780316306058
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Published: Back Bay Books - February 23rd, 2016

One of my all-time Top 5 favorite books, David Foster Wallace's massive Infinite Jest is a totally original take on family dysfunction, a gut-wrenching treatise on the horrors of addiction, and a dark comedy about the terrifying power of entertainment to possess our lives. And the writing is amazing.


The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel (Vintage International) Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9780679775430
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (updated daily)
Published: Vintage - September 1st, 1998

Nine Stories Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780316767729
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Published: Back Bay Books - January 30th, 2001

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The Brothers K Cover Image
$19.00
ISBN: 9780553378498
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Published: Dial Press Trade Paperback - June 1st, 1996

An incredible tale of a family divided by religion, war, insanity, and each member's own fiercely held ideologies. It is also a novel of baseball, of fully realized characters, and of America itself. A masterpiece.


The Stranger (Vintage International) Cover Image
$13.95
ISBN: 9780679720201
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Published: Vintage - March 13th, 1989

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780743236010
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Published: Scribner - July 2nd, 2004

Underworld: A Novel Cover Image
$20.00
ISBN: 9780684848150
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Published: Scribner - July 9th, 1998

Writteen at the close of the millennium, Don DeLillo's Underworld is a masterful meditation on America, from our great national pasttime, baseball, to our nation's consumptive terminus: trash. A rich and absorbing novel, don't let the length intimidate you.


Brave New World Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780060850524
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Published: Harper Perennial Modern Classics - October 17th, 2006

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Magic for Beginners: Stories Cover Image
By Kelly Link, Shelley Jackson (Illustrator)
$17.00
ISBN: 9780812986518
Availability: Backordered - availability and arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - July 1st, 2014

The magical realism (and off-the-wall kookiness) in these short stories is probably not for beginners. But, for the slightly adventurous reader, this collection is full of delights, surprises, oddities, and characters who feel absolutely real, despite the unreality of the worlds Link has invented for them. As a caveat, Magic for Beginners, like most short story collections, is not without a clunker or two. This seems particularly inevitable when the author is so fearless about striking out into uncharted territories. Zombies, for instance. Kelly Link is sharpest when she has zombies on the brain, as is evidenced in the amazing, surreal, funny and sadness-tinged tale "The Hortlak," in which the two guys running a convenience store reinvent retail for their customers (undead or alive). The majority of her excellent stories work because, like our most unsettling dreams, they're grounded in reality. When she tries to create a whole new fairy tale in "Catskin," she loses her footing. But we'll allow her this one slip-up in an otherwise thoroughly compelling, continually surprising and always exuberant collection of short fiction. This is my runner-up for the best of 2005.


Lolita (Vintage International) Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780679723165
Availability: Special Order - arrival estimates will be provided when your order is processed
Published: Vintage - March 13th, 1989