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Picks and Pans Main: Books

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by Danielle Trussoni |


People PICK


Actually, most of the creatures who give this breathtakingly imaginative first novel its title-briefly, angelology is the study of angels based on their mentions in the Bible and other ancient texts-aren’t even the real thing. They’re the Nephilim, partly human descendants of angels. And in amassing wealth and status, they’ve been party to every evil visited on the planet. Now, though, they’re in a mysterious decline-even their once glorious wings are shriveling! The Society of Angelologists, a group of activist theologians, may be able to hasten that decline if they can discover the whereabouts of an ancient lyre with magical powers. Leading the quest is Sister Evangeline, a plucky young nun who senses that the keys to the angelologists’ search may lie in her own convent in New York. Helping her is a (but of course) dashing art historian.

Yes, this story by Trussoni (who has reviewed books for PEOPLE) is over the top. But aren’t all sweeping, thoroughly entertaining tales of the supernatural? In fact, once you’ve entered Angelology’s enthralling world, which includes World War II Paris, a desolate Bulgarian mountain range, a sumptuous Manhattan penthouse and the aforementioned convent, you’ll be thinking, “Vampires? Who cares about vampires?”

The Ask

by Sam Lipsyte |



In Lipsyte’s sardonic, brilliant third novel, Milo Burke is a struggling husband, parent and recently sacked fund-raiser for “Mediocre University” brought back to land a wealthy donor-Burke’s old college friend, the slick Purdy Stuart. Reeling in Stuart results in tangled strings, among them keeping the identity of his buddy’s unhinged illegitimate son Don hidden from Stuart’s wife. Lipsyte skewers everything from precious preschools (Burke’s son Bernie gets picked up for childcare in a van playing a DVD of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ in the backseat) to academia, displaying an effortless grace and style all his own.

The Man from Saigon

by Marti Leimbach |



Sent by a women’s magazine to find human-interest stories in 1967 Saigon, journalist Susan Gifford forms a fateful alliance with Son, a Vietnamese photographer. Traveling with U.S. troops, Gifford and Son survive an ambush only to be captured by the Vietcong. What follows is harrowing, as Leimbach vividly recreates the chemical strafing of the countryside, the misery of the refugee camps and the suffocating humidity of the jungle. This impressive novel finds a new way of illuminating the horrors of an old war.

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced

by Nujood Ali and Delphine Minoui |


One of 16 children living in squalor in Yemen, Nujood was married off at about age 10. Though her husband vowed he’d wait for sex until she reached puberty, he rapes her on their first night together. After months of abuse, Nujood goes to the courthouse, where with heartbreaking naivete she tells a judge she wants a divorce. Supported by the legal system, Nujood gets her wish. A dividend: Her case has brought international exposure to the archaic practice of robbing girls of their youth-half the girls in Yemen are married before age 18. Nujood’s story ends with her back in school, given a rare second chance to start her childhood over.

The Wild Zone

by Joy Fielding |



In sultry South Beach, three would-be lotharios make a bet on who will be the first to seduce a pretty stranger. Faster than you can say “suckers,” the trio is pitted against each other by the woman, who’s secretly trolling for a man to kill her abusive husband. Sex, suspense and heart-pounding plot twists follow as the reckless gun-toting dudes prove just how stupid their egos can make them. Fielding (Still Life) has a knack for tense, turbocharged thrillers, and this one delivers.

So Much for That

by Lionel Shriver |



After packing for the island where he’ll spend “The Afterlife,” as he calls retirement, good guy Shep Knacker is stopped cold when wife Glynis is diagnosed with cancer. His friend Jackson, a blowhard whose daughter was born with a devastating illness, thinks, “Now do you understand what it’s been like for me?” This story about two families in the country of illness is often caustic. But readers will be charmed by the ending-a scenario that suggests that there’s an afterlife after all.