By Ellen Shapiro ANNE LESLIE Alicia Dennis
March 17, 2014 12:00 PM

A CIRCLE OF WIVES

by Alice LaPlante |

NOVEL

There are suspects and motives aplenty when Dr. John Taylor, renowned plastic surgeon and closet polygamist, is found sprawled in a Palo Alto hotel room. Sounds like something ripped from the tabloids, but LaPlante (Turn of Mind) transforms this lurid premise into a smart, intricate tale about murder and the elusive mysteries of marriage. The investigation is in the hands of newbie detective Samantha Adams, who tries to make sense of the victim’s Byzantine past while wrestling with her own doubts about love. As the narration alternates between Adams and Taylor’s three wives—Deborah, his frosty, status-seeking mate of 34 years; MJ, a hippieish gardener; and the doctor’s most recent bride, a compassionate, work-obsessed pediatric oncologist named Helen—each reveals her own subjective portrait of Dr. Taylor. But even when the killer is unmasked, the man and his motivations remain a tantalizing puzzle. In LaPlante’s world knowing who did the deed is never as fascinating as wondering why.

—REVIEWED BY ELLEN SHAPIRO

BOY, SNOW, BIRD

Helen Oyeyemi |

NOVEL

Beaten but not broken, Boy Novak flees her abusive dad and marries widower Arturo, whose fair-complexioned daughter Snow looks like “a medieval swan maiden.” When Boy gives birth to Bird, she’s shocked by the girl’s dark skin, which exposes Arturo’s family secret. Boy keeps Snow and Bird apart, fearing comparisons, but they long for sisterhood. This imaginative novel explores identity, race and family, arguing in brilliant language that black, white, good, evil, beauty and monstrosity are different sides of a single, awesome truth.

—REVIEWED BY ANNE LESLIE

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