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Erin Kodicek on May 19, 2017

BolingIn this edition, a literary sportswriter takes on the Boer War, Sherman Alexie's moving memoir about his fascinating and complicated mother, and one of the masters of suspense returns....

Jon Foro: You know what’s hot in publishing? The Boer War, and I’m not making that up. I admit it’s a relative statement and a bit of a slow-drip trend, but I stand by it. Last year Candice Millard published Hero of the Empire, her account of Winston Churchill’s escape from a rebel prison, and later this summer, an award-winning history - Martin Bossenbroek and Yvette Rosenberg’s The Boer War – will be published in for the first time in English. A search for “Boer War” reveals a litany of analyses and deep-dives. Still with me? (It’s okay if you’re not.) So here comes a novel: Dave Boling’s The Lost History of Stars, the story of a young South African girl caught in the middle of the conflict as her family’s farm is annexed by the British and turned into a concentration camp. Boling is a Seattle-based sportswriter, a tall and affable fellow, not necessarily the first person you’d think of to write fictions about faraway wars, both in time and geography. But his 2008 book Guernica, a love story set in the Spanish Civil War, was well received by both critics and readers. The new book (June 6) promises to be equally ambitious.

Sarah Harrison Smith: I'm about halfway through Sherman Alexie's book about his whip-smart, sometimes cruel mother, You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, and I’m totally bowled over by it. Family memoirs often seem like an opportunity for score settling, but Alexie is so aware of his own fallible memory and his own imperfections that this one didn't make me bristle. His style is idiosyncratic – passages of verse lead to passages of prose, somewhat inexplicably. But it's readable, unpretentious, funny, and deeply compassionate. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me is an extraordinary look at the complicated relationship between a remarkable mother and an equally remarkable son, set, mostly, in the Spokane Indian Reservation where Alexie spent his childhood. I’d recommend this to anyone who has thought hard about the mysteries of their own mother’s lives. Don’t we all just want more of our mothers, in the end? I certainly want more of this book and I’ll be reading it late tonight, after I’ve told my own children I love them, and put them to bed.

Penny Mann: I'm a sucker for a good series, and the master of adrenaline-inducing reads, Dean Koontz, has a new one starting next month. The Silent Corner introduces readers to a new heroine, Jane Hawk, who is claimed to become an instant icon of suspense. Book two is already lined up for next January, which is a bit too far for my patience but I'll take it. After spending time with Ms. Hawk, I will be checking out Rachel Kadish's The Weight of Ink. I have heard great things in-house about this historical fiction - set primarily in 1660's London - about two women separated by centuries.

Seira Wilson: I’m engrossed in Cartel Wives right now – it’s a memoir written by the wives of two of the most powerful drug lords in the States, identical twin brothers who became key players in El Chapo’s network and eventually turned FBI informants against him.  It’s a fascinating story of personalities, business, and what it’s like to have a life where a friendly dinner guest may also be a hired killer. Can’t wait to hit a lawn chair and finish it this weekend…  For something completely different I’m also going to read The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. Everyone else who has read or started it is totally in love, and I can’t wait to dig into a gorgeously written novel about the varied and ever-changing human experience.

Erin Kodicek: "This book nearly destroyed me; you gotta read it." That's what a colleague said to me about debut novel Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo, and not sadistically (I don't think--I'll let you know). Taking place in Nigeria, it's about a young and i- love married couple experiencing fertility issues. Ever the helpful parents, the wife's family shows up with a solution: a second wife for her husband. This unleashes a chain of events with devastating consequences.


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