Fiction Reviews | September 1, 2013

redstarGrodstein, Lauren. The Explanation for Everything. Algonquin. Sept. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781616201128. $24.95. F

Andy Waite is just about holding his life together, trying to raise his two young daughters after his wife, Louisa, was killed by a drunk driver. As a biologist, Andy devotes himself to researching the effects of alcohol on laboratory mice. He is also obsessed with preventing the guy who killed Louisa from being paroled. At the mediocre college in southern New Jersey where he teaches, Andy offers a class called “There Is No God” on evolutionary biology. Most of his students are apathetic, except for a few evangelicals who strongly disagree with him. Then a persistent undergraduate named Melissa persuades him to sponsor her independent study project on intelligent design, and Andy reluctantly agrees. As Melissa becomes less sure of her religious convictions, Andy reevaluates his ideas about belief and forgiveness. VERDICT Many novelists explore love and loss, but Grodstein (A Friend of the Family) adroitly tackles big questions about faith and science, guilt and responsibility, punishment and healing. This engaging, and provocative novel is hard to put down. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 6/24/13.]—­Leslie ­Patterson, Rehoboth, MA

redstarStone, Robert. Death of the Black-Haired Girl. Houghton Harcourt. Nov. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780618386239. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780547760384. F

Stone’s latest novel takes place on the campus of an elite college in Connecticut. The dark-haired girl of the title is Maud Stack—beautiful, talented, and hopelessly in love with her married professor, Steven Brookman, with whom she has been having an affair. His newly pregnant wife and daughter are returning from an extended trip, and Steven is looking to extricate himself from the affair and renew his connection with his family. As their relationship crumbles, Maud begins drinking heavily, makes a scene in the street, and is killed by a hit-and-run driver. The question of whether her death was accidental leads to the police becoming involved, even as Maud’s father, Eddie Stack, a retired police officer in New York City, begins an unofficial investigation. The novel builds to a confrontation between the father, in failing health, and the professor, who feels remorse but is prepared to defend himself and his family. ­VERDICT Stone (Dog Soldiers; Damascus Gate) is a major literary figure, and this novel is readable, tense, and stimulating. Vivid scenes with razor-sharp dialog are plentiful; a powerful work. [See Prepub Alert, 5/13/13.]—James Coan, SUNY at Oneonta Lib.

redstarWatson, Larry. Let Him Go. Milkweed. Sept. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781571311023. $24. F

Two decades after Montana 1948 (Milkweed National Fiction Prize winner), Watson returns with a powerful story of two headstrong women, each with an unshakable resolve to hold on to what family means. Set against the backdrop of North Dakota and Montana in 1951, the story takes us to a dark place of parental love and its tragic end. Margaret and George Blackledge disagree over Margaret’s decision to rescue their grandson, Jimmy, from flighty daughter-in-law Lorna, who has married Donnie Weboy after the death of her husband, the Blackledges’ son, James. Reluctantly, George packs the family’s old Hudson for the long drive from their home in North Dakota to Montana, unaware they are embarking on a life-changing journey. In charge of the criminal Weboy clan is tougher-than-nails Blanche, who controls Donnie and two other thick-headed sons. With Margaret determined to save her grandson absolute, tension builds, the Weboys’ behavior goes beyond threatening, and George and Margaret belatedly discover the hard-edged truths of what the Weboys might do. VERDICT Bold writing holds the reader’s attention right up to the book’s shattering conclusion. An outstanding work that is sure to expand Watson’s audience of devoted readers. Not to be missed. [See Prepub Alert, 3/18/13.]—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Palisade, CO

The following titles are reviewed in the September 1, 2013 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Antoni, Robert. As Flies to Whatless Boys. Akashic. Sept. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781617751554. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781617751561. $15.95. F

Beachy-Quick, Dan. An Impenetrable Screen of Purest Sky. Coffee House. Sept. 2013. 246p. ISBN 9781566893411. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781566893435. F

Blackstone, Charles. Vintage Attraction. Pegasus. Oct. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781605984827. $24.95. F

Bonert, Kenneth. The Lion Seeker. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2013. 576p. ISBN 9780547898049. $28. F

Boyd, Hilary. Thursdays in the Park. Quercus. Oct. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781623650964. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781623650957. F

redstarCoulter, Catherine & J.T. Ellison. The Final Cut. Putnam. Sept. 2013. 464p. ISBN 9780399164736. $26.95. F

redstarDanticat, Edwidge. Claire of the Sea Light. Knopf. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9780307271792. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385349680. F

redstarDekker, Ted. Outlaw. Center Street: Hachette. Oct. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9781599954158. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781455550562. F

redstarDrabble, Margaret. The Pure Gold Baby. Houghton Harcourt. Oct. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780544158900. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780544157767. F

redstarFlanery, Patrick. Fallen Land. Riverhead. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9781594631801. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101626733. F

Ford, Jamie. Songs of Willow Frost. Ballantine. Sept. 2013. 325p. ISBN 9780345522023. $26. F

redstarForna, Aminatta. The Hired Man. Atlantic Monthly. Oct. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780802121912. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780802193100. F

Gazan, S.J. The Dinosaur Feather. Quercus. Nov. 2013. 448p. tr. from Danish by Charlotte Barslund. ISBN 9781623650667. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781623650674. F

Graves, Tracey Garvis. Covet. Dutton. Sept. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780525954071. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101627419. F

Greenwood, T. Bodies of Water. Kensington. Oct. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780758250933. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780758291448. F

Hernandez, Tim Z. Mañana Means Heaven. Univ. of Arizona. (Camino del Sol). 2013. 240p. ISBN 9780816530359. $24.95. F

Herrin, Lamar. Fractures. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781250032768. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250032751. F

redstarLansdale, Joe R. The Thicket. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Sept. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780316188456. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316248754.

Lemaitre, Pierre. Alex. MacLehose: Quercus. Sept. 2013. 384p. tr. from French by Frank Wynne. ISBN 9781623650001. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781623650018.

Maynard, Joyce. After Her. Morrow. Sept. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780062257390. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062257413. F

Meacham, Leila. Somerset. Grand Central. Feb. 2014. 624p. ISBN 9781455547388. $26; ebk. ISBN 97814554737. F

Michaka, Stéphane. Scissors. Nan A. Talese: Doubleday. 2013. 224p. tr. from French by John Cullen. ISBN 9780385537490. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385537513. F

Mizumura, Minae. A True Novel. 2 vols. Other. Nov. 2013. 876p. tr. from Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter. ISBN 9781590512036. pap. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781590515761. F

Palahniuk, Chuck. Doomed. Doubleday. Oct. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780385533034. $24.95. F

Porter, Jane. The Good Wife. Berkley: Penguin Group (USA). (Brennan Sisters, Bk. 3). Sept. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780425253670. pap. $15. F

redstarPreston, Douglas & Lincoln Child. White Fire. Grand Central. Nov. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9781455525836. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781455525850. F

Pritchard, Melissa. Palmerino. Bellevue Literary. Jan. 2014. 192p. ISBN 9781934137680. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781934137697. F

redstarPynchon, Thomas. Bleeding Edge. Penguin Pr. Sept. 2013. 479p. ISBN 9781594204234. $27.95. F

redstarRayfiel, Thomas. In Pinelight. Triquarterly Books. Sept. 2013. 278p. ISBN 9780810152366. pap. $18.95. F

Rey Rosa, Rodrigo. The African Shore. Yale Univ. (Margellos World Republic of Letters). Oct. 2013. 160p. tr. from Spanish by Jeffrey Gray. ISBN 9780300196108. pap. $13. F

Rice, Anne. The Wolves of Midwinter: The Wolf Gift Chronicles. Knopf. Oct. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780385349963. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385349970. F

Simmons, Dan. The Abominable. Little, Brown. Oct. 2013. 672p. ISBN 9780316198837. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316198851. F

Simsion, Graeme. The Rosie Project. S. & S. Oct. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781476729084. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781476729107. F

redstarSmith, Martin Cruz. Tatiana: An Arkady Renko Novel. S. & S. Nov. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781439140215. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781439153185. F

Thompson, John Milliken. Love and Lament. Other. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9781590515877. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781590515884. F

Turow, Scott. Identical. Grand Central. Oct. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9781455527205. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781455527212. F

redstarWoodrell, Daniel. The Maid’s Version. Little, Brown. Sept. 2013. 176p. ISBN 9780316205856. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780316205863. $12.99. F

redstarZailckas, Koren. Mother, Mother. Crown. Sept. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780385347235. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780385347242. F

Zuravleff, Mary Kay. Man Alive! Farrar. Sept. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780374202316. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374709457. F


Dubus, Andre, III. Dirty Love. Norton. Oct. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780393064650. $25.95. F

Harrison, Jim. Brown Dog: Novellas. Grove. Dec. 2013. 528p. ISBN 9780802120113. $27. F

Marcus, Ben. Leaving the Sea: Stories. Knopf. Jan. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780307379382. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385350433. F