Fiction Reviews, August 2012

starred review starChabon, Michael. Telegraph Avenue. Harper: HarperCollins. Sept. 2012. c.468p. ISBN 9780061439334. $27.99. F

If any novelist can pack the entire American zeitgeist into 500 pages, it’s Chabon (The Yiddish Policeman’s Union). Here, he deftly treads race, class, gender, and generation lines, showing how they continue to define us even as they’re crossed. In 2004, in an enclave bordered by Berkeley and Oakland, Brokeland Records sells used vinyl records and serves as the de facto community center. The owners are Archy Stallings, totally down on his dad, once a blaxploitation star, and earnest, Jewish Nat Jaffe. Their wives are Gwen Shanks and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, the Berkeley Birth Partners, renowned local midwives. All’s well until former NFL quarterback Gibson Goode threatens to build a megastore nearby, effectively shuttering Brokeland but promising jobs in a poor, mostly black neighborhood. Meanwhile, a complicated delivery causes trouble for the Birth Partners. And that’s only a tiny sampling of what happens in this prodigious novel. VERDICT Ambitious, densely written, sometimes very funny, and fabulously over the top, here’s a rare book that really could be the great American novel. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/5/12.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

starred review starErdrich, Louise. The Round House. Harper: HarperCollins. Oct. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780062065247. $25.99. F

Set on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota in 1988, Erdrich’s 14th novel focuses on 13-year-old Joseph. After his mother is brutally raped yet refuses to speak about the experience, Joe must not only cope with her slow physical and mental recovery but also confront his own feelings of anger and helplessness. Questions of jurisdiction and treaty law complicate matters. Doubting that justice will be served, Joe enlists his friends to help investigate the crime. VERDICT Erdrich skillfully makes Joe’s coming-of-age both universal and specific. Like many a teenage boy, he sneaks beer with his buddies, watches Star Trek: The Next Generation, and obsesses about sex. But the story is also ripe with detail about reservation life, and with her rich cast of characters, from Joe’s alcoholic and sometimes violent uncle Whitey and his former-stripper girlfriend Sonja, to the ex-marine priest Father Travis and the gleefully lewd Grandma Thunder, Erdrich provides flavor, humor, and depth. Joe’s relationship with his father, Bazil, a judge, has echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird, as Bazil explains to his son why he continues to seek justice despite roadblocks to prosecuting non-Indians. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 4/23/12.]—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis

starred review starKingsolver, Barbara. Flight Behavior. Harper: HarperCollins. Nov. 2012. c.448p. ISBN 9780062124265. $28.99. F

Dellarobia Turnbow is in a perpetual state of fight or flight. Married at 17 to kind, dull Cub, she finds even the satisfaction of motherhood small consolation for the stultifying existence on her in-laws’ struggling Tennessee sheep farm. When a fluke of nature upends the monotony of her life, Dellarobia morphs into the church’s poster child for a miracle, an Internet phenomenon, and a woman on the verge of unexpected opportunity as scientists, reporters, and ecotourists converge on the Turnbow property. Orange Prize winner Kingsolver (The Lacuna) performs literary magic, generously illuminating both sides of the culture wars, from the global-warming debate to public eduction in America. It’s a joy to watch Dellarobia and her precocious son, Preston, blossom under the tutelage of entomologist Ovid Byron. V­ERDICT Like E.O. Wilson in his novel Anthill, Kingsolver draws upon her prodigious knowledge of the natural world to enlighten readers about the intricacies of the migration patterns of monarch butterflies while linking their behavior to the even more fascinating conduct of the human species. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 5/4/12.]—Sally Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Myers, FL

The following titles are reviewed in the August print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

starred review starBarclay, Linwood. Trust Your Eyes. NAL: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. c.496p. ISBN 9780451237903. $25.95. F

Bomer, Paula. Nine Months. Soho, dist. by Random House. Aug. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9781616951467. pap. $15. F

Boyle, T. Coraghessan. San Miguel. Viking. Sept. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780670026241. $27.95. F

Butler, Robert Olen. The Hot Country: A Christopher Marlowe Cobb Thriller. Mysterious Pr: Grove/Atlantic. Oct. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780802120465. $25. F

Clark, Clare. Beautiful Lies. Houghton Harcourt. Sept. 2012. c.512p. ISBN 9780151014675. $26. F

Cross, Neil. Luther: The Calling. Touchstone: S. & S. Sept. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9781451673098. $25. F

Follett, Ken. Winter of the World. Dutton. (Century Trilogy, Bk. 2). Sept. 2012. c.960p. ISBN 9780525952923. $36. F

starred review starGarey, Juliann. Too Bright To Hear Too Loud To See. Soho, dist. by Random House. Dec. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9781616951290. $25. F

Hahn, Susan. The Six Granddaughters of Cecil Slaughter. Fifth Star. Sept. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9780984651009. $22. F

Harman, Patricia. The Midwife of Hope River. Morrow. Sept. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9780062198891. pap. $14.99. F

Harris, Joanne. Peaches for Father Francis. Viking. Oct. 2012. c.464p. ISBN 9780670026364. $26.95. F

Helprin, Mark. In Sunlight and in Shadow. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2012. c.720p. ISBN 9780547819235. $28. F

Homes, A.M. May We Be Forgiven. Viking. Oct. 2012. c.496p. ISBN 9780670025480. $26.95. F

Johnson, T. Geronimo. Hold It ’Til It Hurts. Coffee House, dist. by Consortium. Sept. 2012. c.340p. ISBN 9781566893091. pap. $15.95. F

starred review starKardos, Michael. The Three-Day Affair. Mysterious Pr: Grove/Atlantic. Sept. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9780802120267. $24. F

Keilson, Hans. Life Goes On. Farrar. Nov. 2012. c.288p. tr. from German by Damion Searls. ISBN 9780374191955. pap. $16.50. F

Kuhn, William. Mrs. Queen Takes the Train. Harper: HarperCollins. Oct. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780062208286. $21.99. F

starred review starLippman, Laura. And When She Was Good. Morrow. Aug. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780061706875. $26.99. F

Locke, Attica. The Cutting Season. Harper: HarperCollins. Sept. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9780061802058. $25.99. F

Lyle, D.P. Run to Ground. Oceanview. Aug. 2012. c.392p. ISBN 9781608090570. $25.95. F

Manrique, Jaime. Cervantes Street. Akashic. Sept. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781617751073. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781617751264. $15.95. F

starred review starMcCarthy, Morgan. The Other Half of Me. Free Pr: S. & S. Sept. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9781451668230. pap. $15. F

Meade, Glenn. The Romanov Conspiracy. Howard: S. & S. Aug. 2012. c.496p. ISBN 9781451611861. $25. F

Meek, James. The Heart Broke In. Farrar. Oct. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780374168711. $28. F

Moehringer, J.R. Sutton. Hyperion. Sept. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781401323141. $27.99. F

starred review starNayman, Shira. A Mind of Winter. 2012. c.332p. ISBN 9781617751035. pap. $15.95. F

Nova, Craig. The Constant Heart. Counterpoint. Sept. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9781619020238. $25. F

Owens, Janis. American Ghost. Scribner. Oct. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781451674637. $25. F

Palma, Félix J. The Map of the Sky. Atria: S. & S. Sept. 2012. c.608p. tr. from Spanish by Nick Caistor. ISBN 9781451660319. $26. F

starred review starPercer, Elizabeth. An Uncommon Education. Harper: HarperCollins. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780062110961. $24.99. F

Roorbach, Bill. Life Among Giants. Algonquin. Nov. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781616200763. $24.95. F

Ruby, Ilie. The Salt God’s Daughter. Soft Skull. Sept. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781619020023. $25. F

Santo, Courtney Miller. The Roots of the Olive Tree. Morrow. Sept. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780062130518. $24.99. F

Shapiro, B.A. The Art Forger. Algonquin. Oct. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9781616201326. $23.95. F

Sharratt, Mary. Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9780547567846. $25. F

Shoup, Barbara. An American Tune. Indiana Univ. Sept. 2012. 280p. ISBN 9780253007421. pap. $19. F

Soli, Tatjana. The Forgetting Tree. St. Martin’s. Sept. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9781250001047. $25.99. F

Staal, Eva Maria. Try the Morgue. Liveright: Norton. Oct. 2012. c.224p. ISBN 9780871403346. $24.95. F

starred review starThúy, Kim. Ru. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Nov. 2012. c.160p. tr. from French by Sheila Fischman.ISBN 9781608198986. pap. $14. F

Vivian, Robert. Water and Abandon. Univ. of Nebraska. Sept. 2012. c.248p. ISBN 9780803238060. pap. $18.95. F

starred review starWeller, Lance. Wilderness. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Sept. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9781608199372. $25. F

Welsh, Irvine. Skagboys. Norton. Sept. 2012. c.560p. ISBN 9780393088731. $26.95. F

Winkler, Anthony C. God Carlos. Akashic. Sept. 2012. c.200p. ISBN 9781617751394. pap. $15.95. F

Zeidner, Lisa. Love Bomb. Sarah Crichton: Farrar. Sept. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9780374192716. $26. F

Short stories

Alexie, Sherman. Blasphemy. Grove. Oct. 2012. c.480p. ISBN 9780802120397. $27. F

Barthelme, Steven. Hush Hush. Melville House. Oct. 2012. c.208p. ISBN 9781612191591. pap. $16.95. F