May 19, 2014 12:00 PM

BITTERSWEET

by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore |

NOVEL

“Before she loathed me, before she loved me, Genevra Katherine Winslow didn’t know that I existed,” begins Mabel, the narrator of Bittersweet, Beverly – Whittemore’s mesmerizing gothic thriller. A scholarship student, Mabel coexists in an uneasy truce with her roommate “Ev,” the wild, willowy daughter of blue-blooded New Yorkers. But an unlikely friendship takes root when Ev suffers a family tragedy and invites Mabel to Winloch, the private lakeside camp where generations of Winslows have summered in Vermont. The girls settle in at Bittersweet, the cottage that Ev has inherited, but there are hints of trouble surrounding the Winslows. Even as Mabel falls for camp life – the family dinners, swimming, fireworks and boating – she realizes things are not what they seem. Why does John, the handyman, install multiple dead bolts on the cottage doors? Why does Ev’s aunt ask Mabel to sort through family papers to find evidence of “blood money?” And what does an old diary reveal of the family’s past? Mabel’s enchantment fades as she pieces together evidence of a family’s malevolence and she wonders who can be trusted when someone is willing to murder to keep the family’s secrets hidden. Bittersweet is worth savoring – it unfolds like a long summer day, leisurely revealing the dark.

—REVIEWED BY LISA KAY GREISSINGER

CAN’T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT?

by Roz Chast |

MEMOIR

Watching your parents decline and die doesn’t inspire most people to draw and make jokes. Luckily, we have Roz Chast. In this graphic memoir, the New Yorker cartoonist recalls her elderly mom and dad’s final years: the accidents, the grudging move to a “Place,” Chast’s own struggle to believe that now she was in charge – and that dying didn’t come with any perks. “Perhaps opium, or heroin. So you become addicted. So what?” Humorous and heartbreaking, her postcards from the end resonate.

—REVIEWED BY KIM HUBBARD

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