What to read next: new books and a classic

Before I get to upcoming new books, I want to share The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley, a classic novel published in 1953. I mentioned it on the book show this past Friday, the story of a 12-year-old boy in 1900’s Norwich, England. He spends a hot July on the estate of a school friend and becomes the secret messenger for his friend’s older sister and her lover. It’s one of those novels that absorbs the reader with the narrator’s melancholy: Leo Colston, now in his sixties, is haunted by this long-ago event that forever changed his life.

I highly recommend this treasure, if you’re looking for a plot that pulls you in with a complication that’s so very real and humanly interpreted. The Go-Between has thousands of fans, as the online 4+ ratings demonstrate, and I’m now one of them.

Here are a few books to be published in May.

Anytime I see a new book by Andrew Krivak, I sign up for it. His stories not only sing with dramatic depth and insight into the human soul, they also hint at a spiritual dimension of grace and redemptive power. His new novel begins in 1933 with the appearance of Bexhet Konar at the door of Jozef Vinich in Dardan, PA. Vinich saved the boy’s life in 1919. He carried the infant Bexhet to his mother’s Hungarian relatives after she died in childbirth. In WWI, Vinich fought in the Italian Alps for the Kaiser’s Austrian army. Bexhet marries into Vinich’s family, but his blood ties to his Romani relatives in Central Europe remain strong. Some of the most powerful scenes in the book are when the Romani help Bexhet during WWII after he’s separated from his American troop. Many years later, Bexhet’s son and grandson are soldiers in Vietnam and Iraq. This is a deeply moving story about the effect of war on families. It’s the final book in a trilogy, but it’s freestanding; however, after reading Like the Appearance of Horses, you’ll be drawn to the story of Jozef, which is told in the first book, The Sojourn, another outstanding novel by Mr. Krivak.

Set in the Appalachian hills of western Pennsylvania, the stories in Sidle Creek by Jolene McIlwain explore “the myths and stereotypes of the mining, mill, and farming towns where the author grew up” and “the unexpected human connections of small, close-knit communities.” It’s the latter in the book’s description that attracts me, a sort of Winesburg, Ohio possibility, and perhaps even the way author Donald Ray Pollock revealed his small community in Knockemstiff. Like these two story collections, McIlwain focuses on a small town and the people who live there. It sounds promising.

I believe this is an author photo, which is the photo being shown EVERYWHERE in place of the book, except on the publisher’s page. (Click here to see it.) Embroidery by Sigrún Pálsdóttir (see above) is a novel about the daughter of an Icelandic archaeologist who disappears from Reykjavik and takes with her one of her father’s priceless treasures. Due to a series of incredible events, the artifact turns up at The Metropolitan Museum of New York. More in the book’s description says Embroidery is “a tragicomic tale about the preservation of cultural treasure, an intriguing perspective on the coincidences that have determined their place in history, and a thrilling and winding story of the human fates that underpin it all.” I’m intrigued. This slim Icelandic novel, 150 pages, is translated by Lytton Smith.

Earlier this week, I read the prologue to this new memoir, fully intending not to engage with it right now. I thought it might be too troubling, given the title, and I wouldn’t be in the mood for it. Not only did I keep reading, but all I want to do now is read Women We Buried, Women We Burned. What I’ve read so far is unputdownable, beginning with the author experiencing her mother’s death from cancer when she was eight years old, and her father’s devastating decision to leave Pittsburgh and relocate to the Chicago area. He’s lured by an evangelical church and community introduced to him by relatives, a decision the author says he likely chose to obliterate his devastating grief over his wife’s untimely death. The book’s dust-jacket tells of the author’s runaway teenage years “masquerading as an adult, talking her way into college” (I’m not there yet) and a journalism career devoted to reporting on “the darkest social issues that impact women’s lives.” I’m hooked, as much by Rachel Louise Snyder’s story as by her unaffected, fresh style. She writes as someone you want to spend time with, alone with that inner narrating voice.

This new Dennis Lehane comes out next week, so a few days before May. I’m including it because it’s so darn good. At the heart of this page-turner is Mary Pat Fennessey searching for her daughter Jules who disappears the same night a young black man is murdered on a commuter station platform in Mary Pat’s Irish South Boston neighborhood. The story takes place during the summer of 1974, a volatile historic time when Boston’s “Southie” neighborhood erupted with protests (burning effigies, chanting marches) over school desegregation. In September Boston Southie High School (Irish) and Roxbury High School (Black) will begin busing students to each other’s campuses. This environment provides a riveting background to the search for Jules. Mary Pat is a tough Irish woman from the projects who can talk paint off a wall (a Lehane expression) and stops at no one and nothing to find her daughter. Lehane’s written from the heart with Small Mercies. He grew up in the South Boston area in the 1970s.

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