Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (paperback)
From Publishers Weekly: Gowda's debut novel opens in a small Indian village with a young woman giving birth to a baby girl. The father intends to kill the baby (the fate of her sister born before her) but the mother, Kavita, has her spirited away to a Mumbai orphanage. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Somer, a doctor who can't bear children, is persuaded by her Indian husband, Krishnan, to adopt a child from India. Somer reluctantly agrees and they go to India where they coincidentally adopt Kavita's daughter, Asha. Somer is overwhelmed by the unfamiliar country and concerned that the child will only bond with her husband because Asha and Krishnan will look alike, they will have their ancestry in common. Kavita, still mourning her baby girl, gives birth to a son. Asha grows up in California, feeling isolated from her heritage until at college she finds a way to visit her birth country. Gowda's subject matter is compelling, but the shifting points of view weaken the story. (Mar.)
From Booklist In her engaging debut, Gowda weaves together two compelling stories. In India in 1984, destitute Kavita secretly carries her newborn daughter to an orphanage, knowing her husband, Jasu, would do away with the baby just as he had with their firstborn daughter. In their social stratum, girls are considered worthless because they can’t perform physical labor, and their dowries are exorbitant. That same year in San Francisco, two doctors, Somer and Krishnan, she from San Diego, he from Bombay, suffer their second miscarriage and consider adoption. They adopt Asha, a 10-month-old Indian girl from a Bombay orphanage. Yes, it’s Kavita’s daughter. In alternating chapters, Gowda traces Asha’s life in America—her struggle being a minority, despite living a charmed life, and Kavita and Jasu’s hardships, including several years spent in Dharavi, Bombay’s (now Mumbai’s) infamous slum, and the realization that their son has turned to drugs. Gowda writes with compassion and uncanny perception from the points of view of Kavita, Somer, and Asha, while portraying the vibrant traditions, sights, and sounds of modern India. --Deborah Donovan
What There Is To Say We Have Said Edited by Suuzanne Marrs
From Publishers Weekly While Welty and her New Yorker editor Maxwell were contemporaries, he 34, she 33 when they first met at a New York literary party in 1942, they seemed to be virtual opposites. He was a devoted family man; she was a loner. His nearly 200 letters to her divulged his entire personality; among the surviving letters, Welty omitted any reference to the love of her life, married crime novelist Ross Macdonald. But Welty and Maxwell recognized from the get-go that they were kindred spirits. The correspondence of this volume, gracefully edited and annotated by Welty's biographer Marrs, takes off in 1951, when the New Yorker began to publish Welty's fiction. Maxwell was an accomplished writer, too, and in these unfailingly cozy letters, which take us up to the 1990s into his old age, the pair discuss not only their work together and apart, but the orchids they loved, their day-to-day lives, and the writers they admired, from Virginia Woolf and Dylan Thomas to J.D. Salinger. Both correspondents were blessed with personality-plus, mirrored in these letters. Also included are one essay, one speech, and one reader's report by Maxwell. Photos. (May 12)
"How rewarding to become the third person present in the discoveries of life and literature between Eudora Welty and William Maxwell. I have always believed the only ‘knowing’ one can have of a fiction writers is through the fiction itself; but here, in the personal medium of to-and-fro wit and vitality, is to be had further experience of the writer Eudora Welty, whose stories, in particular, have opened my vision of human relations." —Nadine Gordimer
"What a glorious collection! These letters make a map into the very heart of friendship and creativity. They are bursting with intelligence, tenderness, and insight. Every page is a privilege to read." —Ann Patchett, author of The Patron Saint of Liars, Bel Canto, Run, among others
"Something truly special happened each time Eudora Welty and William Maxwell wrote a letter to the other. Suzanne Marrs has collected more than 300 of those letters and set them into a time and context. Anyone who relishes and celebrates the magic use of words, storytelling, and friendship will treasure the end result forever. And, most likely, they will continue to pick it up and read from it forever. It’s truly that kind of special."—Jim Lehrer
"A complex improvisation carried on for years by two artists for whom nothing in the realm of literature or feeling was remote."
—Alec Wilkinson, author of The Happiest Man in the World and My Mentor: A Young Writer’s Friendship with William Maxwell
"This book lets us in on the happy fact that two splendid writers, who did not sacrifice humanity to career, were warmly admitted to each others’ lives." —Richard Wilbur
"These letters evoke a lost world when events moved a bit more slowly, and friends could take the time to be both eloquently witty and generous with each other, and letters were unobtrusively artful about daily life. Welty and Maxwell are like two birds of the same species, calling to each other across the distances." —Charles Baxter
"If friendship is an art, this volume is its masterpiece—the complex rendering of two long, literate lives well-lived, always written with care, intelligence, grace, and even humor! Miss Welty’s gentle, constant humor is a revelation, providing the grace notes in this beautiful exchange. And, oh my—our own paltry e-mails pale beside these letters, as our scatter-shot lives seem trivial in comparison to the constancy and purpose of the correspondents." —Lee Smith
"A literary revelation. Suzanne Marrs’s editing of this rich collection is superlative." —Roger Mudd, journalist and broadcaster
One of the richest and most riveting collections of famous-people letters to emerge in some time."
"A vivid snapshot of 20th-century intellectual life and an informative glimpse of the author-editor relationship, as well a tender portrait of devoted friendship."
The Buddah in the Attic by Juli Otsuka
Julie Otsuka’s long awaited follow-up to When the Emperor Was Divine (“To watch Emperor catching on with teachers and students in vast numbers is to grasp what must have happened at the outset for novels like Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird” --The New York Times) is a tour de force of economy and precision, a novel that tells the story of a group of young women brought over from Japan to San Francisco as ‘picture brides’ nearly a century ago.
In eight incantatory sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces their extraordinary lives, from their arduous journey by boat, where they exchange photographs of their husbands, imagining uncertain futures in an unknown land; to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; to their backbreaking work picking fruit in the fields and scrubbing the floors of white women; to their struggles to master a new language and a new culture; to their experiences in childbirth, and then as mothers, raising children who will ultimately reject their heritage and their history; to the deracinating arrival of war.
In language that has the force and the fury of poetry, Julie Otsuka has written a singularly spellbinding novel about the American dream.
Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott (paperback)
From Publishers Weekly Canadian writer Endicott's second novel (and stateside debut) is an enjoyable and affirming meditation on altruism, goodness, and loneliness. The quiet, circumscribed world of divorcée Clara Purdy gets shaken up when she gets in a car accident with the Gage family, who are homeless and have been living in their car. In the aftermath, the mother, Lorraine Gage, is diagnosed with cancer, and Clara takes the family into her home while Lorraine undergoes treatment. The father absconds almost immediately, and Lorraine's mother, Mrs. Pell, proves to be deeply unpleasant. Clara, however, continues to visit Lorraine in the hospital, tend to the three children, and eventually takes in Lorraine's alcoholic brother as well. Her willingness to go to such lengths for strangers is a perpetual curiosity to those around her, and just as the Gage family solidifies around her and she begins a new relationship, Lorraine's health takes a surprising turn and Clara must decide again, what is the right thing to do. Endicott's rich writing struggles to find its groove at first, but the balance of prose, plot, and purpose soon evens out into a touching story. (Apr.)
From Booklist *Starred Review* If she’d only driven straight ahead, Clara Purdy wouldn’t have been thrown for such a curve. When her car plows into that of the Gage family—father, mother, three children, and cranky grandmother—Clara ends up exchanging more than just routine insurance information. Though no one is seriously injured, Lorraine Gage requires hospitalization, and tests reveal she suffers from an advanced stage of cancer. Homeless and nearly destitute, the remaining Gages are welcomed into guilt-ridden Clara’s home. Long divorced, stuck in a lackluster job, Clara and her world could use a little shaking up, but caring for the Gages gives her more than she bargained for. As she grows to love the three kids and tolerate the grandmother (dad flies the coop), Clara begins contemplating the “what if” of Lorraine’s uncertain future and finds she welcomes the role of instant motherhood. Probing the moral and emotional minefield of heroic Samaritan acts, Endicott’s enchanting and poignant novel of compassion run amok handles provocative issues with a deft and winsome touch. --Carol Haggas
So Much for That by Lionel Shriver (paperback)
From Publishers Weekly A risk taker with a protean imagination, Shriver (The Post-Birthday World) has produced another dazzling, provocative novel, a witty and timely exploration of the failure of our health-care system. Shep Knacker's long-cherished plan to use the million dollars from the sale of his handyman business to retire to a tropical island receives a gut-wrenching blow when his wife, Glynis, is diagnosed with a rare cancer. Transformed into a full-time caregiver, the good-natured Shep is buoyed during the illness of self-centered, vindictive, and obnoxiously demanding Glynis by his working mate and best friend, Jackson Burdina, whose teenage daughter, Flicka, also has a terminal disease. Ironically, Glynis tenaciously clings to life, while Flicka, with whom she bonds, wants to end hers. Jackson, meanwhile, acutely conscious that he's going broke, rails pungently against government regulations and the insurance industry. A mouthpiece for the plight of middle-class workers, Jackson's diatribes about contemporary society—the medical, educational and banking systems, exorbitant taxation, political chicanery—ring painfully true. As Shep's Merrill-Lynch account dwindles and further medical calamities arise, Shriver twists the plot to raise suspense until the heart-lifting denouement. (Mar.)
From Bookmarks Magazine Some critics were initially turned off at the thought of reading Shriver's latest offering because, really, how interesting can a novel about health care be? Rather than being pedantic or depressing, however, So Much for That is a thoughtful and powerful look at the effect our health policies have on middle-class Americans. It also raises the unsettling question about the worth, both financial and emotional, of a human life. While several critics thought the secondary storyline involving Shep's buddy Jackson was contrived and others felt that Shriver offered too much information on health care, most agreed that Shep and Glynis's story was "visceral and deeply affecting" (New York Times)
A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard (hardcover - not out until July 12, 2011)
In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen. For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse.
For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my own name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation.
On August 26, 2009, I took my name back. My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived.
A Stolen Life is my story—in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it.
The pine cone is a symbol that represents the seed of a new beginning for me. To help facilitate new beginnings, with the support of animal-assisted therapy, the J A Y C Foundation provides support and services for the timely treatment of families recovering from abduction and the aftermath of traumatic experiences—families like my own who need to learn how to heal. In addition, the J A Y C Foundation hopes to facilitate awareness in schools about the important need to care for one another.
Our motto is “Just Ask Yourself to . . . Care!”
A portion of my proceeds from this memoir will be donated to The J A Y C Foundation Inc.
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones (hardcover)
From Publishers Weekly A coming-of-age story of sorts, Jones's melodramatic latest (after The Untelling) chronicles the not-quite-parallel lives of Dana Lynn Yarboro and Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon in 1980s Atlanta. Both girls-born four months apart-are the daughters of James Witherspoon, a secret bigamist, but only Dana and her mother, Gwen, are aware of his double life. This, Dana surmises, confers "one peculiar advantage" to her and Gwen over James's other family, with whom he lives full time, though such knowledge is small comfort in the face of all their disadvantages. Perpetually feeling second best, 15-year-old Dana takes up with an older boy whose treatment of her only confirms her worst expectations about men. Meanwhile, Chaurisse enjoys the easy, uncomplicated comforts of family, and though James has done his utmost to ensure his daughters' paths never cross, the girls, of course, meet, and their friendship sets their worlds toward inevitable (and predictable) collision. Set on its forced trajectory, the novel piles revelation on revelation, growing increasingly histrionic and less believable. For all its concern with the mysteries of the human heart, the book has little to say about the vagaries of what motivates us to love and lie and betray. (May)
“[An] expansive third novel…Jones effectively blends the sisters’ varied, flawed perspectives as the characters struggle with presumptions of family and the unwieldy binds of love and identity.”--Booklist
"A love story... full of perverse wisdom and proud joy....Jones's skill for wry understatement never
wavers."--O, The Oprah Magazine
(O Magazine )
“If your mom is a fan of emotionally charged morality tales (and whose mom isn’t?), she’s going to devour Tayari Jones’s third novel, Silver Sparrow, in a single sitting. Jones, a native Atlantan, once again mines her town for material and strikes serious pay dirt. Sparrow introduces us to sisters Dana Lynn Yarboro and Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon, who were born four months apart from different mothers and have never met. One reason? Their father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist who has gone to great pains to ensure they remain in the dark about each other. And when they do meet, that’s when Sparrow gets really good.”--Essence
“A graceful and shining work about finding the truth.” – Library Journal, starred review