Starred Reviews

New and Upcoming Releases that Have Received Acclaim!


By: Michelle Porter

Library Journal – Starred Review

DEBUT Memoirist, poet, and scholar Porter’s (creative writing and Métis literature, Memorial Univ.; Scratching River) searingly captivating debut novel takes shape around five Métis women on seemingly divergent paths. Told beautifully in each of the women’s voices, as well as from the perspectives of bison, dogs, and the land they inhabit, each woman’s journey comes to intersect with another’s until the story is fully woven. Mamé is in the afterlife but remains tethered to this world until she can settle her ties to her girls left behind. Carter has just been asked by the grandmother she’s never met if she’ll go help kill her, and she thinks she’s agreed. Geneviève decides maybe it’s a good idea to get sober in what are likely her last months to live. Allie tries to hold on to everything so tightly she just might break it all, and she’s the reason Carter didn’t know she was Métis until she was a teenager and never met her Gramma.

VERDICT Highly recommended, especially for fans of stories of generational relations and the connections between women. The tender, tough, funny, and heartbreaking voices of the characters will seep into readers’ souls.

Booklist – Starred Review

Many points of view come together in this haunting, gorgeous tale that traces the roots of an indigenous Canadian family through several generations. Even bison, grasslands, and dogs get a chance to tell their stories. There’s Mamé, who has passed on and is learning the contours of the afterlife; her daughter, Geneviève, who has checked into a rehab although she is close to death; and Carter, Geneviève’s biological great-granddaughter, who’s just discovering the family after escaping an abusive adoptive mother. There’s also Dee, a young bison who loses her mother early in life and is trying to find her way alone. Métis traditions touch every character, especially Geneviève, who longs for her young life as a musician. The Métis dance reels accompanied by live music, and Geneviève’s father was a master fiddler. She rediscovers her piano as she too approaches the afterlife. Porter has published memoir and poetry, and she plays with the beauty of language and the rhythm of music here. The pulsing heart of the Métis people underlies every short section, creating a patchwork of beads not unlike those the women make. Suggest to fans of Kellie Jo Ford’s Crooked Hallelujah (2020) and Emily Habeck’s Shark Heart (2023).

Algonquin Books: November 7, 2023; ISBN: 9781643755182, Hardcover


By: Michael Connelly

Booklist – Starred Review

Nothing is more soul satisfying for defense attorney Mickey Haller than to be inside a prison when one of his clients does the “Resurrection Walk”; it begins with the prison guards taking off Mickey’s client’s manacles and ends with the client walking out to waiting family and friends. In this, the seventh in the Lincoln Lawyer series—Mickey is called this because he conducts most of his business from the back seat of a Lincoln Town Car—Mickey teams up once again with retired LAPD detective Harry Bosch, the star of his own separate series, in a stunning combination of police and legal procedural. After observing a satisfying resurrection walk, the Lincoln Lawyer decides to chase that great feeling by pursuing another case of wrongful imprisonment. Harry searches LAPD cold case files and finds a woman incarcerated for killing her husband, a former sheriff’s deputy. The Haller-Bosch team’s meticulous digging uncovers a hidden system of abuse and intimidation practiced by deputies working within prisons. As always, Connelly, who won the Edgar Grand Master Award in 2023, makes the tedious work of investigation fascinating as he shuttles between Mickey’s and Harry’s hard-bitten points of view.

HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The success of the Bosch and The Lincoln Lawyer TV series should propel readers to this latest Connelly novel.

Little, Brown: November 7, 2023; ISBN: 9780316563765, Hardcover


By: Gabriel Bump

Publishers Weekly – Starred Review

Bump (Everywhere You Don’t Belong) delivers a wry and astonishing sophomore novel centered on a pair of Black academics who flee their posts at a Boston liberal arts college to establish a utopia of sorts in western Massachusetts. Rio and Gibraltar both teach “Black people to white children,” until Rio, pregnant and weary of campus racism, starts obsessively marking a global map with X’s where such grim events as police killings, violent protests, and immigration crackdowns have occurred. “Tell me what you need,” Gibraltar asks her; “Get me the fuck out of Boston,” Rio replies. The pair secure an unnamed, wealthy benefactor searching for something “world-changing,” and in a year’s time, the subterranean utopia dubbed the New Naturals is carved into a mountain, with state-of-the-art classrooms, laboratories, a garden, and filtered air. Those drawn to the facility, including a young journalist in existential crisis and a former college soccer player, now broken and angry, are all searching for clean, safe living in a world on fire. Meanwhile, the utopia’s growing pains spark tensions with the surrounding community that threaten its survival. Brisk dialogue and flashes of mordant humor pay off, and Bump cannily grapples with such issues as gentrification, microaggressions, and environmental racism. This is a scalding study in human nature.

Algonquin Books: November 14, 2023; ISBN: 9781616208806, Hardcover


By: Louisa Morgan

Booklist – Starred Review

Morgan’s superbly written historical novel set during the 1960s and 1970s offers a touch of the paranormal, complex and relatable characters, and resonant issues of abuse and control in a satisfying and highly relevant read. Beatrice has always seen ghosts. Now a psychologist working in Haight-Ashbury, she is surprised when one of her patients becomes healthier after taking LSD. Curious, she tries a dose and can suddenly see ephemeral shapes and colors surrounding a young patient. This vision helps her diagnose the problem, but it haunts her. A second dose makes her life unbearable as she sees the ominous shades attached to almost everyone around her, wreaking havoc on her relationship with her partner and her own mental health. Fearing psychosis, Beatrice flees San Francisco for a tiny house on a rural island accessible only by a ferry run by the nuns at a convent. In a distant city, Anne, a beautiful young woman, is courted by a wealthy man her parents convince her to marry. She soon has a son, but her husband is a tyrant. Anne also seeks shelter on the island. At once surprising, suspenseful, and thought-provoking, this may be Morgan’s most compelling book yet.

Redhook: November 21, 2023; ISBN: 9780316628808, Hardcover


By: Lauren Grodstein

Kirkus – Starred Review

An English teacher documents life in the Warsaw ghetto.

Before the Nazis invaded, 42-year-old Adam Paskow was a secular Jew. He lived in Warsaw with his cat, taught at a Polish school, and mourned his late wife, a wealthy Pole who died too young. After the Nazis invade, he is forced out of his home and into the Jewish ghetto where he shares a small apartment with two families (though the kids often sleep on the roof or in the sewers or hallways). He works in a soup kitchen and gives English lessons to children in the basement of a bombed-out movie theater, teaching them poems he has memorized, due to the lack of books. Early on, Adam is given a notebook from a real, historical organization called Oneg Shabbat to write everything he can about life under the Nazis for posterity. His account—this book—is moving and tender. “The truth is,” Adam writes, “it was hard to know what to think or how to behave, and I spent an awful lot of time either staring into space or digging myself into the deep hole of memory.” But Adam’s memories of his fairly average life before the war provide a contrast to the intentional, increasing meagerness of the life allowed in the ghetto. His interviews with his students and housemates offer a wealth of distinct histories, subtle but potent rebukes to the cruel and useless labeling perpetuated by the Nazi regime. Adam has the poetic optimism of a person for whom the worst has already happened, who is content for a while to count small blessings, but he is neither foolish nor passive. When risking death by missing curfew in order to walk a wayward student home, he notes, “there were corpses on the street, covered with newspapers that fluttered in the wind. We pretended not to see them.”

Delicate, warm account of a brutal, cold time, grounded in humanity, small details, and unwavering clarity.

Algonquin: November 28, 2023; ISBN: 9781643752341, Hardcover


By: Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow

Kirkus – Starred Review

A neurodivergent woman finds her world opening up in conflicting ways when new neighbors sweep into her life. In the 1980s, the quietude of a sleepy town in England’s Lake District is disrupted by the arrival of a London couple, Vita and Rollo. Next-door neighbors Sunday Forrester—a single mother —and her independent teenage daughter, Dolly, are gradually drawn into their urbane and seemingly nonchalant orbit. The extraordinary Sunday, who serves as the direct yet poetic narrator of Lloyd-Barlow’s debut novel, enjoys the growing attention and friendship provided by the couple. Due to neurodivergence, Sunday has endured familial trauma and now spends her days isolated from the world beyond her home. Vita and Rollo’s more glamorous lifestyle (and even diet, which varies beyond Sunday’s preference for white foods) appeals to Dolly in ways with which Sunday cannot compete. The slow alienation of her daughter’s affections creates a tone of menacing suspense and raises questions about the toxicity of ableism and entitlement due to affluence. Sunday relies on coping skills developed over the course of a lifetime of disenfranchisement and misunderstanding and often refers to a dated etiquette guide and a book of Southern Italian folktales as her guides through the world of the neurotypical. The constant need to decode social messages received from those around her is exhausting for Sunday, as is the need to balance her own comfort against what her great love for Dolly compels her to do. Lloyd-Barlow, who has autism, deftly interweaves themes of family disruption, class disparities, entitlement, and social alienation through a quiet narrative and succeeds in creating a tempest in a very small, provincial teapot. The novel was longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize. Lloyd-Barlow’s narrator is not a novelty—she is an effective, thoroughly human character in a thoughtful book.

Algonquin: December 5, 2023; ISBN: 9781643756615, Paperback


By: Melissa Wiesner

Booklist – Starred Review

Sadie Thatcher has had the worst year ever. She lost her dream job, her dream apartment, and her dream guy, and now she’s living in the apartment of her brother’s best friend, Jacob, spending her time eating ice cream on the couch. Her best friend drags her to a New Year’s Eve party, where a fortune teller gives her a chance to relive the last year. Before she goes to bed that night, she and Jacob share a New Year’s kiss, but she’s horribly embarrassed when he immediately apologizes. When she wakes on New Year’s Day, she’s in bed next to her old boyfriend in her old apartment. Sadie remembers the last year and is sure that she can use that knowledge to make her second-chance year the best year ever. But sometimes getting what you want isn’t what you need. Can she make the changes necessary to find love and happiness, or is she doomed to disappointment? A swoony romance with a subplot about harassment and sexism in the workplace, Wiesner’s latest will resonate with every reader who’s wondered, “What if?”

Forever: December 5, 2023; ISBN: 9781538741917, Paperback


By: Christopher Hitchens; Introduction by James Wolcott

Kirkus – Starred Review

A well-selected anthology from the pen of the incomparable writer. Hitchens contributed reviews and essays over a period of two decades for the London Review of Books, some of which are anthologized for the first time here. The anthology is memorable not just for the first-rate quality, but also for showcasing the author’s enviable range. Subjects include the defenestration of the Kennedy and Nixon administrations, which attracted the ire of Arthur Schlesinger; Salman Rushdie; P.G. Wodehouse; a trip to the 1995 Oscars with his son; and an incident in which Hitchens describes being spanked with a rolled-up order of Parliament by Margaret Thatcher (this last essay is worth the price of the book). The author’s profile of Bill Clinton serves as an extended precis of his book about the Clintons, No One Left to Lie To. During his long and celebrated career as a public intellectual, Hitchens often defined an educated person as one self-aware enough to know that he or she could never learn or read enough. Keeping that in mind while reading this entertaining anthology reinforces how much Hitchens did know and how well-read he was. To every piece, he brings what James Wolcott (a Hitchens colleague at Vanity Fair) describes in the foreword as the author’s “armory of deep reading and lucid recall.” The quality, irony, and intelligence that marks his work leaves readers wishing Hitchens were around to comment upon the current state of affairs, particularly concerning state-sponsored censorship and coercion—not to mention the general lack of quality of what passes for political leadership. But readers can well enough guess given the following from an essay about the first Iraq War: “There were a thousand ways for a superpower to avert war with a mediocre local despotism without losing face. But the syllogisms of power don’t correspond very exactly to reason.” Quintessential Hitchens.

Twelve: January 2, 2024; ISBN: 9781538757659, Hardcover


By: Jill McCorkle

Kirkus – Starred Review

In her fifth story collection, McCorkle explores the emotional toll of keeping secrets and making compromises on her mostly female protagonists. In “Low Tones,” a mother is wracked with guilt at having once yelled Don’t make me slap the shit out of you at her sweet young son, even though she’s done far worse by giving cover to her abusive husband. “Swinger” is about young woman named Marnie who’s left with next to nothing after the still-married man with whom she’s been living for three years suddenly dies. Once a swinger, her boyfriend has a box of nude photos of past lovers; Marnie is haunted by the absence of her image in the box, the fact that she could not bring herself to ask for more from their relationship because “she was the kind of invisible woman who might be referred to as sturdy or dependable, smart and practical.” The cost of past mistakes is often regret, or even rage. In “A Simple Question,” Anna looks back on her friendship with Muriel, an older woman trying to parent a difficult son, and realizes the extent to which her youth made her self-involved. In “The Last Station,” a mother performs her own version of the Stations of the Cross every year in her front yard to call attention to social injustice. After her husband’s death, however, her performance becomes an expression of her disappointment—in how hard she worked as mother, wife, and librarian, and how little she got in return. “I want more,” she announces. “I want my turn and yet, here I am and it’s all over—finished.” McCorkle is a brilliant storyteller who makes use of the retrospective voice at key moments and employs peripheral characters as narrators to underscore the extent to which trauma and regret cast long shadows. The past is never too far from the present. Wonderfully rich and emotionally complicated stories.

Algonquin: January 9, 2024; ISBN: 9781616209735, Hardcover


By: Duane Swierczynski

Booklist – Starred Review

Four decades ago, the man known as the California Bear killed several people and then dropped out of sight. In this excellent novel, a handful of characters—an ex-cop, the ex-cop’s wife, an excon, a teenage girl—are connected to the Bear in various ways which will not be revealed here,
because the author works very hard to reveal the connections in his own way. The novel tackles a number of themes, including the current fascination with true-crime stories, the difficulties of reconciliation between people who have been estranged for many years, and the question of whether someone who acquires a taste for killing can ever really stop. The characters are beautifully designed, and the author offers up some tantalizing questions. Why did ex-cop Cato Hightower work so hard to get Jack Queen released from prison? What is the Bear’s real
identity? Will the Girl Detective (her name isn’t revealed for quite some time) find out whether her father is a killer? And who is her father, anyway? Swierczynski, who’s written fiction, comic books, and crime nonfiction, brings the story to a magnificent, surprising, exhilarating conclusion. An ambitious and deeply satisfying novel.

Mulholland: January 9, 2024; ISBN: 9780316382977, Hardcover

★ HBCU MADE : A Celebration of Black College Experience

By: Ayesha Rascoe

Booklist – Starred Review

Among African American cultural institutions, one of the most significant and yet least understood by outsiders are the HBCU, historically Black colleges and universities. Often condescendingly treated as “lesser” or “limiting,” HBCUs have educated generations of Black cultural, political, business, and scientific leaders and continue to be a major driver of success. NPR host Rascoe’s powerful collection of essays from HBCU alums, including Stacey Abrams, Branford Marsalis, April Ryan, and Oprah Winfrey, presents a resounding rebuttal to doubters, revealing the unique joys, challenges, frustrations, and rewards of the HBCU experience. Roy Wood Jr. poignantly recounts how Florida AMU took a chance on him when no one else would, and Shawn Zachery points out that “HBCUs exist to educate both those that have everything and those that may have nothing.” Michael Arceneaux notes that Howard University was “the most
diverse place I have ever been. There are students from all over the world with different religions, financial backgrounds, and yes, varied sexual identities and genders.” Lauren F. Ellis writes that attending an HBCU helped her see that she had “internalized America’s monolithic beliefs about Black people, that I was so limited in my understanding of the multitudes contained within us.” Essential reading for our cultural moment.

Algonquin: January 30, 2024; ISBN: 9781643753867, Hardcover

★ THE STOLEN WEALTH OF SLAVERY : A Case for Reparations

By: David Montero

Booklist – Starred Review

Montero (Kickback, 2018), who has produced episodes for PBS’ FRONTLINE and reported for the Nation and the Christian Science Monitor, presents an unsparing account of the untold billions of dollars, ill-gotten over centuries from the labors of American enslaved people, that made their way from southern plantations to major financial institutions in the North. The huge profits made in shipping goods from the South to New York to England were then pumped back into the expansion of the slave-based agrarian system in the South, the financing of America’s industrial revolution, a surprisingly robust and organized resistance to the abolitionist movement‘s efforts to end slavery in the nineteenth century, and the creation of some of the largest multinational corporations of the twenty-first century, including Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, and Lehman Brothers. Montero’s fulsome investigation limns the deep and multiple connections between southern plantations and northern boardrooms, while also citing current research into the topic as well as public acknowledgements and apologies by some entities, like Lloyd’s of London, over their historic connections to the slave trade. A book both appalling for
what it reveals of America’s deliberately hidden past and hopeful for the light now being thrown on the issue.

Legacy Lit: February 6, 2024; ISBN: 9780306827174, Hardcover


By: Megan Nolan

Booklist – Starred Review

The death of a toddler is an extraordinary loss, made even more so when it comes at the hands of another child. Such is the case when three-year-old Mia disappears from a playgroup in the company of 10-year-old Lucy Green. The suspicion around Lucy is heightened by the precarious nature of her family’s standing in the shabby London neighborhood, having just relocated from a small Irish village under scandalous circumstances. It’s a helluva story, one that tabloid journalist Tom Hargreaves hopes to exploit to jump-start his career. Sequestering the family at a meager hotel, Tom ingratiates himself as a sympathetic ear to Carmel, Lucy’s forlorn teenage mother, and an eager drinking buddy to Carmel’s brother and father, Richie and John. While troubled little Lucy lingers in police custody, Hargreaves extracts the family’s tales of unrequited romance, unrealized ambitions, and unimaginable betrayal, hoping to stoke the UK media’s penchant for nationalist outrage and seamy innuendo. Pathetic Carmel, depleted Richie, defeated John—really, Carmel asks, “who would care about a family like theirs?” Nolan’s readers, that’s who. Through her skillful exploration of the burdens imposed by inertia and inadequacy, Nolan illuminates the link to tragedies both commonplace and exceptional.

Little, Brown & Company: February 6, 2024; ISBN: 9780316567787, Hardcover