Sarah Bagby

Book reviewer

Sarah Bagby is the owner of Watermark Books & Café, and publisher of Watermark Press. As such, she has been reading and recommending books to readers for over 30 years. Involved in numerous regional and national industry organizations, she advocates for issues facing local independent businesses.

She loves her store and café, and all the opportunities it affords the staff and customers to come together to create a vibrant literary culture in Wichita and Kansas.

She is married to Eric Cale and they have one daughter.

It is award season in the publishing world and long lists for the National Book Award, the Kirkus Prize, and the Booker are being released. I’m excited to see two of my recent favorites on the long list for the National Book Award fiction prize. 

Canadian mystery writer Louise Penny draws inspiration from British writers such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Josephine Tey in her series featuring the beloved Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete Academy du Quebec. In each of her award-winning 12 novels, Penny lures us into the fictional close-knit village of Three Pines, hooks us with characters that mirror ourselves, yanks us around with plots that build intricately, all while serving up a master class in the history of her native Canada. 

I can trace my appreciation of art in the broadest sense to frequent visits to three local museums: The Wichita Art Museum, WSU’s Ulrich Museum of Art, and the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City. Visits to museums further afield stay in my psyche through gorgeously illustrated exhibition catalogs.

One of Dorothea Lange’s 1930s iconic portraits of a mother living through the dust bowl features a woman and her suckling child staring directly into the camera from their dusty roadside camp along a gritty, endless highway. The intrusive gaze of the mother and child is disturbing, challenging, hard. They have suffered in an environment that is cruel and unusual. 

The portrait inspired Rea Meadows to write the novel, I Will Send Rain.

We Love You, Charlie Freeman, an ambitious debut novel by Kaitlyn Greenidge, examines the complexities of scientific research, the often misguided conclusions drawn about race and evolution, and how a family experiment can go wildly wrong.

Liz Ligouri

This commentary originally aired on May 4, 2015.

Sally Mann’s exhibition of photographs of her children brought her persecution. She was accused of exploitation because of the naked images she produced of them at their remote Virginia home.

It is appropriate that the cover of The Girls by Emma Cline pays homage to the psychedelic band gig posters prominent in San Francisco during the late sixties; the book takes place in 1969 in Northern California, characters drop out, and visionaries distort reality. While Cline drew her inspiration from the effect of despicable charm a man like Charles Manson has on young vulnerable girls, her novel is a more universal story about young girls everywhere. 

Novelist and short story writer Adam Haslett’s new novel Imagine Me Gone portrays a family of five whose story is tragic, loving, and at times, gut-wrenching. In the 1960s Margaret faces a choice when her fiancé John is hospitalized for depression. Such is her sense of commitment and love that she marries John and they have three children.

Noah Hawley is an Emmy, Golden Globe, and Peabody Award-winning author, screenwriter and producer, and most recently an executive producer, writer, and show runner for the TV series Fargo. Hawley is also a writer of novels, and his latest, Before the Fall, is a thrill ride of a book, a perfect summer beach read.   

Three time periods, three cities, and one gorgeous painting, in a smart and well crafted novel: The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith.

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