Our favorites this month include a fascinating true crime tale, this year's "Overstory," and a chilling psychological thriller...
Our favorites this month include a fascinating true crime tale; this year's Overstory; and a chilling psychological thriller featuring a mother with Munchausen syndrome by proxy.
Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman's Search for Justice in Indian Country by Sierra Crane Murdoch
Three stories overlap in Yellow Bird and any one of the three would make for an interesting book on its own. Primarily it’s a true crime story about the disappearance and murder of an oil-worker named K.C. Clarke and Lissa Yellow Bird—a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes—who, obsessively some would say, hunted his killer for years. But author Sierra Crane Murdoch also lays out the history of oil drilling on the reservation, the booms and the busts, and the complex legacy of exploitation that shackled the fate of the tribe to that of Big Oil. And finally, Yellow Bird’s also about addiction and recovery, zooming in on the way Lissa, a meth addict fresh out of prison, channeled the same addictive impulses that landed her in prison into the search for K.C. Clarke. And how a case she took on while newly-sober gave her additional purpose: Lissa ended up traveling to conferences across America, calling attention to the high rates at which Indigenous people went missing and to the low resolution rate for such missing person cases. Murdoch’s seven years of research allow for an intimate portrait of a resilient woman who believes she’s “paying a debt to society, making up for the harm she had caused,” making this fascinating story so much more than a true crime tale. —Vannessa Cronin
Greenwood: A Novel by Michael Christie
It is difficult not to fall for Michael Christie’s Greenwood, a multi-generational saga that is also a page turner. Beginning in 2038, after an event called “the Withering” has taken most old-growth forests, we meet Jacinda “Jake” Greenwood, who is working as a forest guide on a remote wooded island off the coast of British Columbia. Because of the rarity of large trees, the island has become a center of eco-tourism, attracting the rich and famous. From Jake's story, the author begins to cycle back in time, through several generations of Greenwoods, all of them linked to the forest in some way, each with their own absorbing story. Trees provide a multitude of metaphors to play with (all applicable here), and there has been a multitude of recent novels with trees at their center. Between Annie Proulx’s Barkskins, Karl Marlantes’s Deep River, and of course Richard Powers’s The Overstory, I thought I had read enough tree books to last a decade. Still, I could not help but fall hard for this novel, and so will many other readers. Greenwood is a great read: thoughtful and complex, entertaining and rewarding.—Chris Schluep
Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
“No one should be able to be awful for so long and get away with it. I taught my mother that lesson the hard way.” As Rose Gold thinks those words, her mom Patty is serving a jail sentence for abusing Rose throughout her childhood, for destroying Rose’s young body with treatments for illnesses she didn’t have. As Rose Gold thinks those words, her friend Alex is bemoaning the loss of her eyebrows, a loss Rose engineered by tampering with a hair dye kit. Alex had abandoned Rose the night before, to go partying, and Rose taught her a lesson the hard way, too. And that right there, is Darling Rose Gold in a nutshell. On one hand, it’s a dark psychological thriller that depicts people damaged and dented by generational trauma spinning dangerously out of control. On the other hand, it’s also a domestic thriller that depicts damaged people, ill-equipped to navigate a world full of ‘normal’ people. This leads to scenarios of the I-shouldn’t-be-laughing-at-this variety (Exhibit A: the Yellowstone camping trip). And those darkly funny bits distract the reader so that the genuinely disturbing parts sneak up and knock you sideways. With not one, but two, unreliable—or should that be unstable—narrators, and one showstopper of an ending, Darling Rose Gold adds up to a must-read. —Vannessa Cronin
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