Week ending February 13, 2015
Coben, Harlan. The Stranger. Dutton. Mar. 2015. 400p. ISBN 9780525953500. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698186200. F
Adam Price’s biggest concern is whether his son will be part of the high school’s traveling lacrosse team. During a team draft meeting, a stranger approaches Adam, giving him devastating news about his wife, Corinne. When Adam confronts Corinne, she asks him to give her some time and disappears, leaving him a cryptic text message. This begins Adam’s nightmare as he tries to find out the truth, protect his sons, and find his wife. He must also come to realize what Corinne had told him: it isn’t what he thinks, and many things are not what they seem. Coben (Missing You) deftly weaves many seemingly disconnected characters into one cohesive tale of suspense, with an expertly realized New Jersey setting.
Verdict Coben’s latest stand-alone is a great story for people who like to examine the ephemeral nature of those strings that bind our dreams to our reality. And while it is a slight departure from his usual type of thriller, this book will be enjoyed as well by Coben’s many fans. [See Prepub Alert, 9/22/14.]—Elizabeth Masterson, Mecklenburg Cty. Jail Lib., Charlotte, NC
Ettinger, Shelley. Vera’s Will. Hamilton Stone. Feb. 2015. 420p. ISBN 9780983666875. pap. $16.95. F
It was Easter Monday, 1903, when five-year-old Vitka Resnikoff first experienced the evil spawned by ignorance and prejudice. The pogrom that tore through Kishinev, Russia, destroyed her Jewish neighborhood, the enraged mob burning, raping, and killing. Ten years later, what’s left of her family has immigrated to New Jersey. When orphaned cousin Mary moves in with the Resnikoffs (now Resnicks) and young Vitka (now Vera) falls in love for the first time, Vera faces a different sort of hatred. Decades later, another Mary comes along, Vera’s granddaughter, who shares more qualities than blood with her grandmother.
Verdict Longtime LGBTQ activist Ettinger has fashioned a powerful, superbly written saga that spans three generations and a century. The parallel stories of Vera and her granddaughter spotlight the challenges faced by women who love women, but there is an even wider focus here. Through her lifetime, Vera witnesses the Holocaust, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the civil rights era, the counterculture of the 1960s, the gay liberation movement, and more. This debut novel, in essence, presents the history of oppression and liberation in the 20th century told through the voices of two women, one hopelessly silenced, one forever speaking out. A breathtaking achievement.—Jeanne Bogino, New Lebanon Lib., NY
Gaynor, Hazel. A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London’s Flower Sellers. Morrow. Feb. 2015. 432p. ISBN 9780062316899. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062316905. F
In 1876 London, eight-year-old flower seller Florrie and her beloved little sister, Rosie, are separated during a disturbance near Covent Garden and, sadly, lost to each other forever. In 1912, Tilly Harper earns a position in Shaw’s Homes for Watercress and Flower Girls, leaving her younger sister Esther behind with little regret. By chance Tilly is given Florrie’s old room and finds a notebook filled with memories of Rosie. Gaining self-confidence, Tilly investigates what she believes happened to the missing girl; is she right? Although these stories take place some 30 years apart and show contrasting sibling dynamics, both focus on the intense bond between sisters. It’s easy to appreciate the author’s intricate connections built among the four girls, but it becomes almost too easy to guess what’s coming.
Verdict Historical details and the unique perspective of penniless, physically challenged young girls could make Gaynor’s second historical novel (after The Girl Who Came Home) a good book club choice. A tidy ending and sweet romance will satisfy readers hoping to exhale a long, contented sigh as they finish the last page.—Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH