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An Object of Beauty

by Steve Martin |

REVIEWED BY KYLE SMITH

NOVEL

Who is not a fan of Steve Martin? It’s like asking if you enjoy sunshine, or friendship. In his third beautifully modulated novel the actor-comedian continues to explore dark, complicated characters with wry detachment. A southern vision named Lacey Yeager sidles into the New York art world in the gilded ’90s, landing as a flunky at Sotheby’s. Her ambition and sexuality fuel each other while morality becomes as easily discarded as her provocative yet tasteful clothes. Her confidante Daniel, a decent but feckless art critic (he occupies “the position on the totem pole that got chipped by the lawn mower”), doesn’t see that their friendship is just another of Lacey’s tools. Like a scalpel. With this tart, amusing chronicle of wiles and willpower, Martin demonstrates an understanding about users and losers that approaches the profound.

The Wolves of Andover

by Kathleen Kent |

REVIEWED BY JOANNA POWELL

NOVEL

Her bestselling 2008 debut, The Heretic’s Daughter, captured the plight of her real-life ancestral grandmother, who was hanged as a witch at the Salem trials. This vivid prequel recreates her doomed forebear’s hardscrabble early days. Mixing history, love story and suspense, Kent seamlessly blends true events with fiction to bring a fraught, endlessly fascinating period of American history to life.

Living Large

by Sarah Z. Wexler |

REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

NON-FICTION

It’s funny and sad, the American equation of “bigger” with “better.” Why do we prize huge cars, breasts, burgers? How can we stop over-consuming? Since much of the U.S. economy “is based on consumer spending,” Wexler notes, closing our wallets isn’t the answer. Instead she suggests we “right-size” by “thinking of the scaling-back…as a long-overdue readjustment.” Her witty narrative makes her supersize warning easy to swallow and hard to ignore.