Fiction Reviews | October 1, 2012

starred review starKimmel, James, Jr. The Trial of Fallen Angels. Amy Einhorn: Putnam. Nov. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780399159695. $25.95. F

From the time she was a little girl holding mock court sessions with other neighborhood children, Brek Abigail Cuttler was destined for the law. As an adult, her life is good. She’s become a successful lawyer, new mother, and loving wife to a TV news anchorman. But suddenly she is sitting at a train terminal covered in blood and cannot recall what happened. Approached by a seemingly familiar older gentleman, Brek finds out she has died. Before she can fully move on, she has been assigned to represent other souls waiting for judgment. With each case, Brek finds connections to her own past life that will reveal the final choice she must make. VERDICT This powerful debut from lawyer Kimmel (Suing for Peace: A Guide for Resolving Life’s Conflicts) explores a myriad of spiritual concepts expressed in various religions. He deftly unveils each new character and cleverly balances the positive and negative aspects of their lives. Building upon the memories of multiple generations, Kimmel has written a stirring spiritual thriller. [See Prepub Alert, 5/4/12.]—Joy Gunn, Henderson Libs., NV

Stewart, Leah. The History of Us. Touchstone: S. & S. Jan. 2013. c.384p. ISBN 9781451672626. $24.99. F

Stewart (The Myth of You and Me) has a knack for introducing characters in need of mending: they are not broken, just disjointed, needy, and, at times, without emotional support. Eloise Hempel is the de facto mother to three twentysomething siblings, having become their primary caregiver after their parents were killed in a car accident. Always planning to put her life back on track as a Harvard professor, Eloise has found herself rooted in Cincinnati for 20 years as she parented her sister’s children to adulthood. There’s Josh, her kind nephew, something of a negotiator and very much the middle child, a young man who has recently tossed away a life in music. The youngest, Claire, is a wispy, wily ballet dancer, and sensitive Theodora, the eldest, is nearly as sensible and strong as Eloise. Inextricably linked together, the three also have strong ties to their childhood home. Looking toward future domestic arrangements, Eloise slowly hedges toward momentous decisions, while the siblings dabble in their own decision making, sometimes with disastrous results. VERDICT Domestic fiction fans favoring strong, intelligent characters will be intrigued by Stewart’s introspective examination of a family.—Andrea Tarr, Corona P.L., CA

starred review starHansen, Ron. She Loves Me Not. Scribner. Nov. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9781451617580. $25. F

Hansen (Mariette in Ecstasy) offers an eclectic collection of short stories mostly relating to Nebraska. Some of the more historical pieces, such as “The Governess,” about a new nanny in a Victorian manor, and “The Killers,” about forties-era gangsters, are purposefully enigmatic and fragmentary. Other stories, however, such as “The Sparrow,” about the death of a mother in a tragic accident, and “My Communist,” about a Polish expatriate priest during the time of the Solidarity movement, encapsulate a whole world, referencing a larger dimension with astounding economy. “Red Letter Days,” for example, written in an epistolary style, conjures the life of a retired Nebraskan judge with breathtakingly straightforward subtlety. The title story reveals the bumbling of an inept killer, capping off the collection with tragicomic hilarity. VERDICT This collection extends the boundaries of the short story form while remaining centered on Nebraska and the human experience; enthusiastically recommended for all readers. [See Prepub Alert, 5/20/12.]—Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos Lib.

The following titles are reviewed in the October 1 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Browne, Hester. The Runaway Princess. Gallery: S. & S. Oct. 2012. c.448p.
ISBN 9781439168851. pap. $16. F

starred review starCastellani, Christopher. All This Talk of Love. Algonquin. Feb. 2013. c.320p. ISBN 9781616201708. pap. $13.95. F

Da Chen. My Last Empress. Crown. Oct. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9780307381309. $25. F

Danielewski, Mark Z. The Fifty Year Sword. Pantheon. Oct. 2012. c.288p. illus. ISBN 9780307907721. $26. F

Duffy, Stella. The Purple Shroud: A Novel of Empress Theodora. Penguin. Oct. 2012. c.390p. ISBN 9780143122258. pap. $16. F

Dunmore, Helen. The Greatcoat. Atlantic Monthly. Oct. 2012. c.208p. ISBN 9780802120601. $24. F

starred review starFay, Juliette. The Shortest Way Home. Penguin. Nov. 2012. c.386p. ISBN 9780143121916. pap. $15. F

Forrester, T.J. Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail. S. & S. Oct. 2012. c.208p. ISBN 9781439175613. pap. $15. F

Ginder, Grant. Driver’s Education. S. & S. Jan. 2013. c.272p. ISBN 9781439187357. $25. F

Haghenbeck, F.G. The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo. Atria: S. & S. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781451632835. pap. $15. F

Halfon, Eduardo. The Polish Boxer. Bellevue Literary. Oct. 2012. c.192p. tr. from Spanish by Daniel Hahn & others. ISBN 9781934137536. pap. $14.95. F

Høeg, Peter. The Elephant Keepers’ Children. Other. Oct. 2012. c.512p. tr. from Danish by Martin Aitken. ISBN 9781590514900. $27.95. F

Isaacs, Susan. Goldberg Variations. Scribner. Oct. 2012. c.335p. ISBN 9781451605914. $26. F

Kent, Trilby. Smoke Portrait. Alma Bks., dist. by Trafalgar Square. Oct. 2012. c.310p. ISBN 9781846881299. pap. $19.95. F

Kim, Young-Ha. Black Flower. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2012. c.320p. tr. from Korean by Charles La Shure. ISBN 9780547691138. $25. F

Koppel, Hans. Never Coming Back. Pegasus Crime. Nov. 2012. c.336p. tr. from Swedish by Kari Dickson.ISBN 9781605983912. $25. F

Meno, Joe. Office Girl. Akashic. 2012. c.224p. illus. ISBN 9781617750755. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781617750762. $15.95. F

Minot, George. Om Love. Knopf. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9781400042746. $25.95. F

Montefiore, Santa. The Woman from Paris. S. & S. Feb. 2013. c.432p. ISBN 9781451676686. $25. F

Osborn, Karen. Centerville. Vandalia: West Virgina Univ. Pr. Oct. 2012. c.192p. ISBN 9781935978640. pap. $16.99. F

Otto, Whitney. Eight Girls Taking Pictures. Scribner. Nov. 2012. c.352p. photogs. ISBN 9781451682694. $25. F

Riley, Rhonda. The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope. Ecco: HarperCollins. Apr. 2013. c.432p. ISBN 9780062099440. $26.99. F

Smilevski, Goce. Freud’s Sister. Penguin. 2012. c.272p. tr. from Macedonian by Christina E. Kramer. ISBN 9780143121459. pap. $16. F

Straight, Susan. Between Heaven and Here. McSweeney’s. 2012. c.208p. ISBN 9781936365753. $22. F

Van der Vliet Oloomi, Azareen. Fra Keeler. Dorothy, dist. by SPD. Oct. 2012. c.128p. ISBN 9780984469345. pap. $16. F

Wagman, Diana. The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets. Ig, dist. by Consortium. Nov. 2012. c.240p.ISBN 9781935439646. pap. $15.95. F

Wallace, Danny. Charlotte Street. HarperCollins. Oct. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780062190567. pap. $14.99. F

Yan Lianke. Lenin’s Kisses. Grove. Oct. 2012. c.592p. tr. from Chinese by Carlos Rojas. ISBN 9780802120373. $27. F

last minute sf/fantasy

Costello, Matthew. Home. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9781250012739. $25.99. HORROR