Fiction Reviews | March 1, 2014

redstarBrooks, Malcolm. Painted Horses. Grove. Aug. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780802121646. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780802192608. F

paintedhorses031814In post–World War II America, Catherine Lemay eschews convention, choosing ­archaeology over marriage to a Manhattan banker. She goes to work for the River Basin Survey near the Montana–Wyoming border to identify any significant archaeological sites before the Harris Power and Light dams the river and floods the canyon. The building of the dam is whipping up bad blood on all sides. Even the Crow Indians can’t agree, as some are willing to sacrifice their sacred canyon for jobs. Jack Allen, a despicable mustang wrangler who guides Catherine on her daily trips into the canyon, is paid by Dub Harris to lead her astray. Undaunted, Catherine enlists the help of Crow girl Miriam, who has modern ideas, to find the ancient cave paintings rumored to be in the canyon. During these excursions, Catherine encounters mysterious cowboy John H, a loner with a penchant for leaving behind painted handprints. His connection to Jack prompts him to become Catherine’s ally, but neither anticipates ­Dub’s dirty tricks. VERDICT Brooks delivers an authentic story, examining in gripping, page-turning prose what it means to live in the West, as Catherine says, “The best way to understand the present and to take some control over the future is to know what happened in the past.” An outstanding debut novel that will linger in the reader’s mind.—Donna ­Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Palisade, CO

redstarShin, Kyung-Sook. I’ll Be Right There. Other Pr. Apr. 2014. 336p. tr. from Korean by Sora Kim-Russell. ISBN 9781590516737. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781590516744. F

i'llberightthere031814“I do not specifically reveal the era or elucidate Korea’s political situation,” writes Shin, recipient of the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize for Please Look After Mom, in the ending of her latest spectacular novel in English translation. Ironically, those missing details make this story urgently universal: in Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, and too many other countries in tumult, young people will continue to form life-changing bonds and fall hopelessly in love. While people vanish without a trace and others die senselessly, Jung Yoon matures into young adulthood as she loses her beloved mother, meets a once-in-a-lifetime mentor professor, forms and renews intimate friendships, and creates “forever” memories with her first love. Her self-preservation in the midst of brutal turmoil comes at an impossibly high price. Years later, in spite of what she survives (and others do not), the title becomes an anthem to hope: “ ‘I hope you never hesitate to say, I’ll be right there.’ ” Shin’s searing, immediate prose will remind readers of Nadeem Aslam’s The Blind Man’s Garden, Edwidge Danticat’s The Dew Breaker, and Aminatta Forna’s The Memory of Love, and their stories of ordinary lives trapped in extraordinary sociopolitical circumstances. ­VERDICT The well-earned lauds for Shin’s two titles should ensure that more of her thus far 17 novels will arrive Stateside. [See “Galley Guide Discoveries,” Prepub Alert 1/19/14.]—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

redstarStevens, Chevy. That Night. St. Martin’s. Jun. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781250034601. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250034618. F

thatnight031814Stevens (Still Missing; Always Watching) has crafted yet another suspenseful thriller with this tale of heartbreak, the cruelties of fate, and redemption. Toni Murphy is a woman in her mid-thirties who spent 15 years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit. Back when she was in high school, she and her boyfriend Ryan were convicted of killing Toni’s younger sister, Nicole. The story skillfully moves between past and present as flashbacks reveal Toni’s transformation from rebellious teen to depressed inmate. The reader follows Toni on a journey marked by cruel classmates and a hateful mother as she eventually discovers the shattering truth behind her sister’s untimely death. Stevens not only gives us a fresh perspective on the power adolescents hold over one another,but she also explores the way secrets can destroy lives. VERDICT Fans of layered mysteries will love this novel as they try to guess the players in Nicole’s death and try to figure out exactly what happened “that night.” A compelling, exceptional read. [Prepub Alert, 1/15/14; 150,000-copy first printing.]—Mariel Pachucki, Maple Valley, WA

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The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Appelfeld, Aharon. Suddenly, Love. Schocken. May 2014. 240p. tr. from Hebrew by Jeffrey M. Green. ISBN 9780805242959. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780805243154. F

Bausch, Richard. Before, During, After. Knopf. Aug. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780307266262. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385351614. F

Bird, Sarah. Above the East China Sea. Knopf. May 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780385350112. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385350129. F

redstarByrne, Monica. The Girl in the Road. Crown. May 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780804138840. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780804138857. F

Dawson, Maddie. The Opposite of Maybe. Broadway: Crown. Mar. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780770437688. pap. $14; ebk. ISBN 9780770437695. F

D’Erasmo, Stacey. Wonderland. Houghton Harcourt. May 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780544074811. $22. F

Edelman, Gwen. The Train to Warsaw. Grove. Apr. 2014. 195p. ISBN 9780802122445.$24. F

redstarGlancy, Robert. Terms & Conditions. Bloomsbury USA. Apr. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9781620406434. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781620406441. F

Greenway, Alice. The Bird Skinner. Atlantic Monthly. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780802121042. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780802193636. F

Hollenback, Chris. Sleep When You’re Dead. Titletown. Apr. 2014. 320p.

ISBN 9789910699078. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9780991069910. F

redstarJohnston, Bret Anthony. Remember Me Like This. Random. May 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781400062126. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780812996166. F

redstarJust, Ward. American Romantic. Houghton Harcourt. Apr. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780544196377. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780544227644. F

Litman, Ellen. Mannequin Girl. Norton. Mar. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780393069280. $25.95. F

McBeth, Colette. Precious Thing. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Mar. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781250041197. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466837348. F

Must, Dennis . The World’s Smallest Bible. Red Hen. Mar. 2014. 232p. ISBN 9781597099721. pap. $16.95. F

Neuman, Andrés. Talking to Ourselves. Farrar. Apr. 2014. 160p. tr. from Spanish by Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia. ISBN 9780374167530. $23; ebk. ISBN 9780374710309. F

Osborne, Lawrence. The Ballad of a Small Player. Hogarth: Crown. Apr. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780804137973. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780804137980. F

Prose, Francine.Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932. Harper. Apr. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780061713781. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780062199133. F

Spector, Liv. The Rich and the Dead. Morrow. (Lila Day). Mar. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780062258397. pap. $13.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062258427. F

Short Stories

Blasim, Hassan. The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq. Penguin. Feb. 2014. 192p. tr. from Arabic by Jonathan Wright. ISBN 9780143123262. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781101609392. F

Davis, Lydia. Can’t and Won’t: Stories. Farrar. Apr. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780374118587. $23; ebk. ISBN 9780374711436. F

Shakespearean Fiction

redstarMorgan, Jude. The Secret Life of William Shakespeare. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2014. 464p. ISBN 9781250025036. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250025043. F

thesecretlifeofwilliamshakespeare031814It’s hard to imagine a better historical novel about the Bard than this one: in quality and power, it rivals Hilary Mantel’s justly acclaimed books (Wolf Hall; Bring Up the Bodies) about Thomas Cromwell. In 1582, Will, neither player nor writer yet, is 18 years old; he has met and will soon woo his future bride, Anne Hathaway. By the time the novel ends in 1603 Will has written 28 plays—with 13 yet to come. British historical novelist Morgan (Charlotte and Emily; Passion) has taken the few facts we know of Anne ­Hathaway’s life and used them to craft an utterly convincing story of her relationship to Will. It feels real, not a stage romance. Anne’s a strong woman, and she loves Will, but she knows she’s losing him—not so much to the temptations of London as to the greater temptations of his own imagination. His world is a vast stage. Hers is Stratford. Morgan switches perspective from Will to Anne to Will’s rival/friend Ben Jonson without loss of momentum and shares the playwright’s exuberant joy in wordworking. Thus Anne’s neck, seen for the first time between collar and coif, seems to Will “like caged honey.” That’s evocative–and economical—writing. VERDICT Mantel has shown there is an audience for quality historical fiction about the Tudors, and Morgan’s novel will stimulate the same literary enthusiasm for the Elizabethans. Mature readers will love this book. [For Shakespeare nonfiction, see Nicholas Graham’s Collection Development feature, “Shakespeare at 450,” LJ 1/14.—Ed.]—David Keymer, Modesto, CA

O’Reilly, Sally. Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady. Picador. May 2014. 448p. ISBN 9781250048134. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781250048141. F

Of all the debates that rage in scholarly circles regarding Shakespeare, perhaps one of the most popular—second only to the question of authorship—is the argument over the identity of the “Dark Lady.” A popular choice is a woman considered one of “Shakespeare’s Sisters”: poet Aemelia Lanyer. The daughter of a royal musician, educated among the elite of English society, she became courtesan to one of the most powerful lords in Elizabeth I’s court. But upon becoming pregnant, she was married off to a wastrel cousin, exiled to the working-class neighborhoods of London, and left to rage and write in obscurity. Making her U.S. debut, British author O’Reilly fills in the gaps between what is known of these two ­Renaissance artists, supposing ­Aemelia to be the Dark Lady, Shakespeare’s lover and muse. With elegant style, masterly wordplay, and an eye for historical detail, O’Reilly beautifully relates a passionate and tragic love story, worthy of two such well-known figures. ­VERDICT With ­Shakespeare’s 450th birthday approaching this April, fans of historical fiction writers such as Philippa Gregory, Anne Easter Smith, and Tracy Chevalier won’t want to miss this one. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/14; academic and library marketing.]—Leigh Wright, ­Bridgewater, NJ

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