Barbara’s Picks, Jun. 2013, Pt. 4 & Jul. 2013, Pt. 1: Greer, Keneally, Walls, and More

Evanovich, Stephanie. Big Girl Panties. Morrow. Jul. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780062224842. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062224866. lrg. prnt. CD: HarperAudio. POP FICTION
Rather too zaftig after turning to food for comfort during her husband’s illness and death, 32-year-old Holly Brennan is chagrined to be occupying the plane seat next to Logan Montgomery, personal trainer to star athletes. But he’s intrigued by her sass and offers to help her get back in shape. And so she does, which leads to a hot affair with Logan and the inevitable question, What comes next? Former actress/comedienne Evanovich debuts with a spicy summer read that’s expected to be big; note the one-day laydown on July 9 and the 150,000-copy first printing.

Greer, Andrew Sean. The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells. Ecco: HarperCollins. Jul. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780062213785. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062213846. LITERARY FICTION
Since Greer’s beautifully layered The Confessions of Max Tivoli is a favorite novel of mine (and of others, as it was a New York Times best seller and a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book), I was excited to come upon this new work. Like Confessions, it plays smartly with time. In 1985, Greta Wells is so distraught by the death of her twin brother and her breakup with a longtime lover that she seeks psychiatric treatment. The unexpected effect: she finds herself living alternate lives as a bohemian adulteress in 1918 and a dedicated wife and mother in 1941 whose challenges recall her contemporary ones despite differences in circumstance. Greer should make this work beautifully; with a 100,000-copy first printing and a national tour to Boston, Iowa City, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle and upon request.

Grimes, Martha & Ken Grimes. Double Double: A Dual Memoir of Alcoholism. Scribner. Jun. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9781476724089. $25. ebk. ISBN 9781476724126. MEMOIR
Mystery Writers of America grandmaster Grimes and her son, who works in public relations, here join forces on a dual memoir about their struggles with alcoholism. As they consider drinking, recovery, relapse, success, and failure, they highlight how individual the struggle is; each person combats his or her demons is a specific way. Not the largest book (the first printing is 35,000) but one that could make a difference.

Keneally, Thomas. The Daughter of Mars. Atria: S. & S. Jun. 2013. 544p. ISBN 9781476734613. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781476734637. LITERARY/HISTORICAL FICTION
Trust the Booker Prize–winning author of Schindler’s List to come up with a moving historical premise, though this book is set during World War I. Sisters Naomi and Sally Durance leave Australia to serve as nurses, first at Gallipoli and then on western front, where their training hardly prepares them for the carnage they witness. In a French hospital established by the free-spirited Lady Tarlton, they both have the chance at love they never thought they’d take. Great international reviews; the Telegraph (UK) says this “might even be the best” from Keneally.

Norman, Howard. I Hate To Leave This Beautiful Place. Houghton Harcourt. Jul. 2013. 208p. ISBN 9780547385426. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780547724775. MEMOIR
Two-time National Book Award nominee Norman’s fiction is so affecting, so beautifully thoughtful, that one must anticipate this memoir with glee. Norman builds his narrative around five events of “arresting strangeness,” relating a boyhood summer involving sexual hints from his brother’s girlfriend, glimpses of his conman father, and work in a bookmobile, for instance, and an eerie instance during his decade in the Arctic translating Inuit tales when he learns that John Lennon has died even as he’s rendering the cry of a goose (actually, a transformed stone carver) about to migrate: “I hate to leave this beautiful place.” With a 40,000-copy first printing.

Vanderbes, Jennifer. The Secret of Pigeon Point. Scribner. Jun. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781439167007. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781439167052. LITERARY FICTION
Vanderbes, who made her name with the shimmering Easter Island (which got several best book nods) and cemented it with Strangers at a Feast, returns with a World War II story that could be read in conjunction with Keneally’s The Daughters of Mars, previewed above. When her brother goes missing in battle, Juliet Dufresne—already studying nursing while dreaming of becoming another Madame Curie—lies about her age so that she can enlist as a nurse. Even as she searches for word of her brother, she works at a field hospital in Italy, befriending patients and staff alike and discovering an assured sense of self. Serious readers, unite.

Walls, Jeannette. The Silver Star. Scribner. Jun. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781451661507. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781451661552. CD: S. & S. Audio. LITERARY FICTION
Walls’s memoir, The Glass Castle, has been a New York Times best seller for more than five years, and her first novel, Half-Broke Horses, was revelatory. So I’m anticipating this Seventies-set tale about two sisters, “Bean” and Liz Holladay, who wind up in a crumbling antebellum mansion in Virginia with widowed Uncle Tinsley when their footloose artistic mother vanishes from their California home. Twelve-year-old Bean looks up to assured and inventive big sister Liz, but it’s Liz who stumbles when they enroll at their new school and finally runs into some very adult trouble. With a 500,000-copy first printing and a ten-city tour to Atlanta, Austin, Houston, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC; don’t miss.

Williams, Beatriz. A Hundred Summers. Putnam. Jun. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780399162169. $26.95. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. HISTORICAL FICTION
Williams, who proved herself capable of smart, delicious writing with the time-traveling Overseas, returns with a second novel set in upper-crust Seaview, RI, in 1938. New York socialite Lily Dane is anticipating a leisurely summer there until she learns that Nick and Budgie Greenwald are in town. What’s worse than dealing with your former fiancé and the former best friend who stole him away? Even as both Greenwalds worm their way back into Lily’s affections, Williams adds a signature touch of historic drama as a deadly hurricane hurries up the coast. Not your standard summer read.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.