Picks and Pans Main: Books
by Maryanne O’Hara |
REVIEWED BY LISA KAY GREISSINGER
Set during the Depression, Maryanne O’Hara’s luminous first novel centers on a woman torn between big-city dreams and life as a small-town wife and mother. Forced to leave art school after her father can no longer pay the tuition, Desdemona Hart returns to rural Cascade, Mass., to find her dad in failing health and her childhood home in foreclosure. A gifted artist who’s studied in Paris and longs to work in New York City, Dez instead marries local Asa Spaulding, who has loved her fiercely all her life. “She suspected he had been secretly grateful when their fortunes turned upside down,” O’Hara writes. “It gave him the chance to step in and save them.” As her husband pushes for children and conformity, Dez finds herself increasingly isolated from the community. But when plans to dam a nearby river threaten the town’s existence, she discovers a way to fight for its survival that just may save her soul as well. Gorgeously written and involving, Cascade explores the age-old conflict between a woman’s perceived duty and her deepest desires, but in O’Hara’s skilled hands the struggle feels fresh and new.
Happier at Home
by Gretchen Rubin |
REVIEWED BY HELEN ROGAN
While unloading the dishwasher, Rubin found herself struck by a peculiar homesickness: “prospective nostalgia for now and here.” So she set about enriching her home life through tasks and maxims, in an earnest, self- effacing fashion fans of her bestselling The Happiness Project will recognize. No matter how you feel about self-help books, her core epiphanies are worth remembering: Be mindful, and be yourself.
by Zadie Smith |
REVIEWED BY KYLE SMITH
Multiculti malaise pervades Smith’s fourth novel, set in working-class northwest London. Childhood pals Leah (who is white) and Keisha (Afro-Caribbean) grow apart as they grow up, the first turning to social work while the latter is a lawyer who frets about losing touch with her roots. Smith’s wit remains keen, but as misunderstandings fester, with everyone feeling disrespected or guilty, the book is often more depressing than enlightening.
And When She Was Good
by Laura Lippman |
REVIEWED BY JOSH EMMONS
How hard is it to look like a boring soccer mom while running one of the classier brothels in D.C.? Not very, if you’re Heloise Lewis. When a rival madam is murdered, however, Heloise realizes that her carefully built image might not protect her from being exposed-or worse. Lippman’s enjoyable novel adds a little Mildred Pierce flavor to the classic hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold story.
by Amanda Coplin |
REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN
William Talmadge is a lonely man in early 20th-century rural Washington, his fruit trees his only companions-until two pregnant teens steal his apples, then reappear in his orchard and his life. The relationship that grows among them is expertly drawn by debut novelist Coplin, who grew up on an orchard and who writes with an insider’s affectionate insights.
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