Nobel Peace Prize winner and president of South Africa from 1994-1999, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. He and other members of the African National Congress were deemed South Africa’s most dangerous criminals as they rebelled against Apartheid.
Christo Brand is an Afrikaner, who was raised in a multi-ethnic community, unaware of the realities of Apartheid. In 1978, when he turned 18, he chose to be a prison guard rather than a soldier or policeman. The brutality and danger, and the racism inherent in the law, were confusing to his tolerant sensibility.
Colm Tóibín is the author of seven novels, including The Master, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Book Award; and two story collections. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Tóibín lives in Dublin and New York.
Tóibín’s latest novel, Nora Webster, displays a singular vision into the interior lives of ordinary people. Like other Tóibín novels, this one is set in a small Irish town in the middle of the 20th century, a time and place he is intimately familiar with from his own childhood.
“Being Mortal is about the struggle to cope with the constraints of our biology.” This is Atul Gawande’s observation in his important new book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. He is the author of three previous books, including The Checklist Manifesto, in which he boldly calls for a surgical checklist to be performed before any surgery, anywhere. This may seem like common sense, but there was no such practice in place.
Internal Medicine by Terrence Holt is a compilation of nine stories that loosely reflect Holt’s experience as an internal medicine resident. Each story is a compositely drawn case, just as Holt’s protagonist, “Harper,” is an amalgamation of his fellow residents. Holt remolds the medical cases, he says, “according to the logic not of journalism but of parable, seeking to capture the essence of something too complex to be understood any other way.”
The Leary family—Eileen, a nurse; her professor husband, Ed; and their ordinary son, Connell—are like most families. Their upward trajectory in economic status results in a move to the New York City suburbs from their working class Brooklyn. Things continue pretty much as expected until the arrival of a debilitating illness: Ed develops early onset Alzheimer’s disease, which they face with perseverance and dignity.
Hampton Sides is an editor-at-large for Outside Magazine and a master of narrative non-fiction. His latest book, In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette, combines just the right amount of adventure, meticulous research and remarkable characters with lofty dreams.
A good novelist weaves a gripping story out of small details, big emotions and just the right words to transport us into the mind of and emotional terrain of his or her characters. Good writing draws me into tragedy before I know it, and two new releases did just that.