Book Review

Commentary
5:30 am
Mon May 18, 2015

'The Daylight Marriage' Is A Heartbreaking Mystery

Heidi Pitlor, a seasoned editor for the annual Best American Short Stories, is the author of the newly released novel, The Daylight Marriage. If a prerequisite to success as a writer is extensive reading, then Pitlor’s editor gig guarantees her success.

We meet Hannah and Lovell on the evening of an explosive argument. They are about 40 and years into their marriage. Raising two children in the suburbs, there is no one thing wrong in their marriage, but rather, many small disappointments that have become big resentments over the years.

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Commentary
5:30 am
Mon May 4, 2015

'Hold Still' Is Not To Be Missed

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.

But now, in her beguiling memoir Hold Still, she is on display on her own terms. Mann relates her life as an artist, a southerner, a mother, daughter and wife. Scrupulously illustrated with her own photographs, plus journals and mementos she found cleaning out her parents’ attic, the book draws you completely into the world of a thoughtful, articulate, funny and generous woman.

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Commentary
5:30 am
Mon April 20, 2015

'Light Of The World' Is A Portrait Of Love, Life And Loss

The Light of the World: A Memoir is an elegant book by Elizabeth Alexander, a poet, mother and widow. Her husband of 16 years was found dead next to their treadmill, just after his 50th birthday. The multiple blocked arteries that caused a massive heart attack had gone undetected by medical tests.

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Commentary
5:30 am
Mon April 6, 2015

'Comma Queen' Is A Joy To Read

Mary Norris describes the birth of her love affair with the New Yorker in her new book Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.

In the summer of 1977, she was reading one of writer John McPhee’s impeccable and exact pieces about the Alaskan wilderness, and came across a new word, "synecdoche." She could deduce what it meant from the context—a small thing writ large—as in the wilds of Alaska. What made her ecstatic was the knowledge that when McPhee used such a word, she knew it was the right word at exactly the right time.

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Commentary
5:30 am
Mon March 23, 2015

'Just Mercy' Will Change How You See The World

Bryan Stevenson gives a talk in 2012
Credit James Duncan Davidson / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., a private, nonprofit human rights organization, helping the poor, the incarcerated, the condemned and children. He is also professor of law at New York University School of Law and received the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, and also won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color.

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Commentary
5:30 am
Mon March 9, 2015

'Dead Wake' May Be Larson's Best Yet

If you’re travelling to Berlin, you’d do well to read Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts. Going to Chicago? Read his The Devil in the White City. However, if you’re going on a cruise, beware Larson’s latest-- and, I think, best-- book, Dead Wake. Larson combines impeccable research, fully drawn characters and social history to tell of a fateful journey when the rules of war became more dangerous for all people.

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Commentary
5:30 am
Mon February 23, 2015

'The Whites' Is Electrifying

Richard Price writes immaculate crime novels. He set his lengthy novel Clockers in one square mile of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where a cop can see an entire world making only right-hand turns. As a writer for HBO’s series “The Wire,” Price immersed himself in the vernacular of cops and drug dealers particular to Baltimore.

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Commentary
5:30 am
Mon February 9, 2015

Story Collection Brings Secrets To The Surface

In an interview, short story writer Charles Baxter explained that, “the short story begins when things start to go wrong.” Elsewhere, he maintained that, “no story can keep a secret. A writer needs to find the secret and bring it to the surface.”

If measured by his own comments, Baxter’s new collection, There’s Something I Want You to Do, is triumphant. Set mostly in Minneapolis along the Mississippi River, the 10 stories are divided into two sections-- one devoted to virtues and the other to vices.

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Commentary
4:59 am
Mon January 26, 2015

A Relentless 'Descent'

Tim Johnston’s suspenseful novel, Descent, kept me up late. Then, I reached for it first thing the next morning.

Caitlin Courtland, 18, disappears in the mountains of Colorado. Until the mystery of the disappearance is solved, Caitlin’s family suffers deeply from the tragedy and Johnston examines the fragility of life and faith.

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Commentary
5:30 am
Mon January 12, 2015

'Secret Wisdom' Is Thoroughly Satisfying

Christopher Scotton’s debut novel The Secret Wisdom of the Earth is riveting.

Set in Medgar, Kentucky, in 1985, it is the multigenerational story of a disparate population of mine owners and their laborers in a community on the verge of major change. Scotton explores the epic theme of man’s dominion over nature and beautifully renders his reverence for the natural landscape.

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