February 10, 2014 12:00 PM

STILL LIFE WITH BREAD CRUMBS

By Anna Quindlen |

NOVEL

Rebecca Winter is a 60-year-old photographer living through the woes of the “sandwich generation”: While paying the nursing home and rent bills for her elderly parents, she’s also still kicking in cash for her filmmaker son. Her black-and-white portraits of the domestic realm were once so beloved and ubiquitous they were reproduced on dorm-room posters, but lately she’s been having trouble getting her agent to return her phone calls. Divorced and dateless, she retreats to a bare-bones cabin in upstate New York because she can’t afford to stay in Manhattan; in the process of adapting to rural life she finds both career and romantic rejuvenation. Winter’s photographs are celebrated for turning the “minutiae of women’s lives into unforgettable images,” and Quindlen does the same here with her enveloping, sure-handed storytelling.

–REVIEWED BY ANDREA WALKER

ALL JOY AND NO FUN

by Jennifer Senior |

NON-FICTION

Remember saying this to your partner? “Having a baby will make us a real family.” It will. It will also result in less sleep, sex, money and life satisfaction for long periods. Senior marshals reams of research to address the question Why has parenting become so hard? The answer, of course, is complex, involving the expectations we place on children for our sustenance even as we protect them for as long as possible from life’s realities. We’ve made them, one sociologist pointed out, “economically worthless but emotionally priceless.” While the book is mostly about the rigors of parenting, Senior also explains the pleasures: the way children can help us escape from our strangled adulthood to a time when everything was possible. Joy indeed.

–REVIEWED BY JUDITH NEWMAN

RIPPER

by Isabel Allende |

NOVEL

Literary icon Allende mesmerizes with her first crime novel, a nail-biter that pits five teens – “shy, reclusive, gifted brats” – against a San Francisco serial killer. The kids start out playing an online sleuthing game called Ripper, but when they connect the dots among local murders, the game becomes reality – and personal. A sharp departure from Allende’s signature magical realism, this race-against-the-clock thriller is pure magic nonetheless.

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