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By Julia Glass
Paul McLeod, a Scottish newspaper owner, longs for the Greek isles to escape his loneliness since the death of his wife. Of his three sons, Fenno is the most reticent, having left Scotland to pursue a life in New York, where his homosexuality would blend into the backdrop of the diversified city. The second part of the story brings Fenno and his twin brothers and their wives together for the funeral of their father, who has died in Greece. Many undercurrents and emotions run through this mesmerizing novel, which essentially deals with human complexity and how people shape one another, deliberately and sometimes by chance. Brimming with a marvelous cast of intricate characters set in an assortment of scintillating backdrops, Glass’s philosophically introspective novel is highly intelligent and well written.
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
By Tim Weiner
Is the Central Intelligence Agency a bulwark of freedom against dangerous foes, or a malevolent conspiracy to spread American imperialism? A little of both, according to this absorbing study, but, the author concludes, it is mainly a reservoir of incompetence and delusions that serves no one’s interests well. Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times correspondent Weiner musters extensive archival research and interviews with top-ranking insiders, including former CIA chiefs Richard Helms and Stansfield Turner, to present the agency’s saga as an exercise in trying to change the world without bothering to understand it.
The Good Lord Bird
By James McBride
Mistaken for a girl on account of his curly hair, delicate features, and sackcloth smock, 12-year-old slave Henry Shackleford realizes that his accidental disguise affords him greater safety and decides to remain female. Dubbed “Little Onion” by his liberator, abolitionist John Brown, Henry accompanies the increasingly fanatical Brown on his crusade to end slavery — a picaresque journey that takes them from Bloody Kansas to Rochester, New York, where they attempt to enlist the support of such notables as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman before embarking on the infamous, ill-fated 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry.
By Rebekah Frumkin
The death of a drug-addicted patriarch, and the stockpile of cash he’s rumored to have left behind, has a broad impact across multiple families. Frumkin’s ambitious, sensitive, and busy first novel centers on Leland Bloom-Mittwoch, who in 1999 flung himself from the roof of a Tampa hotel. He lived a rough life. He also possessed a briefcase full of money that was previously in the hands of a drug dealer. Cue a hunt among family, friends, and enemies to locate it. But the luggage is a MacGuffin: The novel is less a mystery than a set of character studies that make up a cross-section of contemporary America, white and black, rich and poor, cis and trans. Individually, they’re remarkable portraits.
The Girl with Ghost Eyes
By M. H. Boroson
In San Francisco during the late 1800s, a young Chinese widow tries to keep her father alive, and win a place in his heart she doesn’t realize she already owns. This story is filled with wonderful detail from Chinese folklore and mythology, and plenty of action as two tongs battle to control Chinatown. The very best fantasy employs strong characters who are real people with real problems. I enjoyed every page.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
By Nathan Englander
From the Pulitzer-nominated, bestselling author of For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, eight powerful stories, dazzling in their display of language and imagination. From the title story, a provocative portrait of two marriages inspired by Raymond Carver’s masterpiece, to “Peep Show” and “How We Avenged the Blums,” two stories that return to the author’s classic themes of sexual longing and ingenuity in the face of adversity, these stories affirm Nathan Englander’s place at the very forefront of contemporary American fiction.