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In the Garden of Beasts

by Erik Larson |

REVIEWED BY ELLEN SHAPIRO

NON-FICTION

William E. Dodd thought Nazis were “adolescents” who would ultimately listen to reason; his bodacious daughter Martha falcon-hunted with Nazi leader Hermann Goring and later had an affair with Gestapo chief Rudolf Diels. That Dodd was the first U.S. ambassador to Hitler’s Germany makes his and Martha’s story fascinating history, and Larson (The Devil in the White City) shows us the Nazi rise to power through their daily lives. When the Dodds arrived in 1933, Berlin was a sophisticated city and many dismissed Hitler, who had been chancellor for just six months, as too thuggish to survive. But slowly, inexorably, both Dodd’s diplomacy and Martha’s social whirl were impacted by his tightening grip. Using letters and diaries, Larson-a master at writing true tales as riveting as fiction-creates a nuanced, eyewitness account of a father and daughter whose eyes thankfully opened as the horrors closed in.

The Year We Left Home

by Jean Thompson |

REVIEWED BY KIM HUBBARD

People PICK

NOVEL

No one can nail your failings quite like a sibling, a fact that Thompson uses to killer effect in this novel about four Iowa brothers and sisters choosing divergent paths to adulthood. Bent on escape, ambitious Ryan notes his housewife sister’s “constant brittle anxiety, as if she’d just missed out on some really important sale.” But smug judgments coexist with fierce love, and it’s the latter that triumphs. Wise and absorbing, this is one not to miss.

The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary

by Andrew Westoll |

REVIEWED BY CAROLINE LEAVITT

NON-FICTION

As a volunteer at Fauna Sanctuary, a haven for 13 traumatized chimps rescued from biomedical labs, Westoll blended smoothies and played with the apes, witnessing an astonishing resilience as they learned to trust and interact once more. His moving book shows that “no matter what kind of trauma we’ve gone through, we all have the capacity to recover and to help others heal.”