By Thailan Pham KYLE SMITH Kristen Mascia Beth Perry
April 12, 2010 12:00 PM

Imperfect Birds

by Anne Lamott |

REVIEWED BY KIM HUBBARD

NOVEL

The vibrant, wilful California girl at the center of two earlier Lamott novels (Rosie and Crooked Little Heart) is back, and this time Rosie Ferguson has her mom and stepdad seriously worried. A straight-A beauty, she’s started lying and dabbling in drugs-or maybe more than dabbling, since her best friend was just shipped off to rehab. Lamott, as famous for her spiritual writings as for her fiction, goes easy on the religion here, but there’s plenty of Marin County therapy speak. (“You need to tell me all of your unsaids, Elizabeth,” a friend tells Rosie’s mother straight-facedly. “You’ve been using your sincereness in counterfeit ways.”) The groovy talk nearly swamps the story, but Rosie and her appealing family keep you reading. And Lamott nicely captures a dilemma that will resonate with any parent of teens. “You had to let people sink or swim,” Elizabeth muses, “but … how could you ask a mother to let her child sink?”

ALL GROWN UP

Did Lamott draw on life with son Sam for her new book? She detailed his first year in her memoir Operating Instructions, but says it was her own youth that informed Birds. Now 20, Sam has a son of his own (Jax, left).

Solar

by Ian McEwan |

REVIEWED BY KYLE SMITH

NOVEL

To make global warming and physics thrilling may be beyond even McEwan, but this character study by the Atonement author unfolds as precisely and satisfyingly as an equation. Physicist Michael Beard is a philandering jackass who lives only for himself. He is also a Nobel winner-and, having developed a way to get fuel from water, a potential world-saver. But his history of morally repugnant deeds becomes the X factor. This dark comedy adroitly handles many elements, yet it’s hard to feel much for the jerk at its core.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

by Paolo Giordano |

REVIEWED BY KRISTEN MASCIA

NOVEL

Scarred by tragedies, unlikely friends Mattia and Alice navigate their teen years together, a pair of awkward, self-destructive misfits. As they grow up and apart, Mattia, a math savant, realizes they’re like twin primes (two numbers divisible only by one and themselves) “that are close to each other, almost neighbors” but are separated by an “even number that prevents them from truly touching.” Alice feels it too, yet they can’t quite connect. Italian physicist Giordano’s debut, a best-seller in Europe, is a touching tale about two broken souls who would be soulmates, if only they could escape the inexorable isolation that comes with being prime.

Easy for You

by Shannan Rouss |

REVIEWED BY BETH PERRY

STORIES

“This was the summer our cars overheated … the summer of brush fires and brownouts,” begins this collection, set in L.A. “And it was the summer, it will forever be the summer, I dated a married man.” With that, readers are thrown into a world of reticent twentysomethings with divorce-pending beaus, rich bachelors who pine for their exes only after agreeing to host their weddings, and lonely trophy wives. Rouss’ characters are refreshingly unairbrushed, and she resists all Hollywood cliches but one: that real life rarely lives up to the movies in our heads.

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