Circles and Squares, Daughters and Doppelgangers, Rivers and Roads. Just a small selection of the great books released recently.
Two Roads Home by Daniel Finkelstein
In Two Roads Home beloved British journalist Daniel Finkelstein tells the extraordinary story of the years before his mother met his father—years of war and trials they barely survived.
Daniel Finkelstein’s grandfather was a German Jewish intellectual leader who tolled an early warning of the impending Holocaust and became an archivist of Nazi crimes. He relocated his family to safety in Amsterdam, where they knew Anne Frank. But in those years safety was an illusion: Anne Frank famously went into hiding and Daniel’s mother, Mirjam, also still a child, was sent to Bergen-Belsen with her mother and sisters.
Finkelstein’s father, Ludwik, grew up in a prosperous Jewish family in Poland where his father, Dolu was a patriotic hero of the Great War. But when Stalin took control, Dolu, was deported to Siberia and Ludwik and his mother were sentenced to forced labor in Kazakhstan, starved and housed in a stable in freezing conditions.
Two Roads Home is a page-turning account of the narrow escapes, forged passports, ingenuity, bravery, and luck that allowed Mirjam and Ludwik to survive the war and find each other. Using their personal testimony, letters sent to Siberia, a diary written in Belsen, and years of historical research, Daniel Finkelstein tells what happened to two families, one the victim of the Nazis, the other of the Soviets. A tale of deliverance and triumph over evil, Two Roads Home will profoundly touch all who read it.
The Square of Sevens by Laura Shepherd-Robinson
Cornwall, 1730: A young girl known only as Red travels with her father making a living predicting fortunes using the ancient Cornish method of the Square of Sevens. Shortly before he dies, her father entrusts Red’s care to a gentleman scholar, along with a document containing the secret of the Square of Sevens technique.
Raised as a lady amidst the Georgian splendor of Bath, Red’s fortune-telling delights in high society. But she cannot ignore the questions that gnaw at her soul: who was her mother? How did she die? And who are the mysterious enemies her father was always terrified would find him?
The pursuit of these mysteries takes her from Cornwall and Bath to London and Devon, from the rough ribaldry of the Bartholomew Fair to the grand houses of two of the most powerful families in England. And while Red’s quest brings her the possibility of great reward, it also leads to grave danger.
Laura Shepherd-Robinson, “the queen of modern Georgian literature” (Susan Stokes-Chapman, author of Pandora), has written a dazzling and Dickensian story of mystery and intrigue, with audacious twists and turns.
The Sullivanians by Alexander Stille
In the middle of the Ozzie and Harriet 1950s, the birth control pill was introduced and a maverick psychoanalytic institute, the Sullivan Institute for Research in Psychoanalysis, opened its doors in New York City. Its founders, Saul Newton and Jane Pearce, wanted to start a revolution, one grounded in ideals of creative expression, sexual liberation, and freedom from the expectations of society, and the revolution, they felt, needed to begin at home. Dismantling the nuclear family—and monogamous marriage—would free people from the repressive forces of their parents. In its first two decades, the movement attracted many brilliant, creative people as patients: the painter Jackson Pollock and a swarm of other abstract expressionist artists, the famed art critic Clement Greenberg, the singer Judy Collins, and the dancer Lucinda Childs. In the 1960s, the group evolved into an urban commune of three or four hundred people, with patients living with other patients, leading creative, polyamorous lives.
But by the mid-1970s, under the leadership of Saul Newton, the Institute had devolved from a radical communal experiment into an insular cult, with therapists controlling virtually every aspect of their patients’ lives, from where they lived and the work they did to how often they saw their sexual partners and their children. Although the group was highly secretive during its lifetime and even after its dissolution in 1991, the noted journalist Alexander Stille has succeeded in reconstructing the inner life of a parallel world hidden in plain sight in the middle of Manhattan. Through countless interviews and personal papers, The Sullivanians reveals the nearly unbelievable story of a fallen utopia.
Juliet by Sophie Duncan
Romeo and Juliet may be the greatest love story ever told, but who is Juliet? Demure ingénue? Or dangerous Mediterranean madwoman? From tearstained copies of the First Folio to Civil War-era fanfiction, Shakespeare’s star-crossed heroine has long captured our collective imagination.
Juliet is her story, traced across continents through four centuries of history, theatre, and film. As Oxford Shakespeare scholar Sophie Duncan reveals, Juliet’s legacy stretches beyond her literary lifespan into a cultural afterlife ranging from enslaved African girls in the British Caribbean to the real-life Juliets of sectarian violence in Bosnia and Belfast. She argues that our dangerous obsession with the beautiful dead teenager and Juliet’s meteoric rise as a defiant sexual icon have come to define the Western ideal of romance.
Wry and inventive, Juliet is a tribute to fiction’s most famous teenage girl who died young, but who lives forever.
Doppelganger by Naomi Klein
Over the past twenty-five years, Naomi Klein has charted and documented our politics and culture with a series of trenchant bestselling books laying bare the effects of branding, austerity, and climate profiteering on our societies and souls.
With Doppelganger, Klein takes a more personal turn, braiding together elements of tragicomic memoir, chilling political reportage, and cobweb-clearing cultural analysis, as she dives deep into what she calls the Mirror World—our destabilized present rife with doubles and confusion, where far right movements playact solidarity with the working class, AI-generated content blurs the line between genuine and spurious, New Age wellness entrepreneurs turned anti-vaxxers further scramble our familiar political allegiances, and so many of us project our own carefully curated digital doubles out into the social media sphere.
Klein begins this richly nuanced intellectual adventure story by grappling with her own doppelganger—a fellow author and public intellectual whose views are antithetical to Klein’s own, but whose name and public persona are sufficiently similar that many people have confused the two over the years. From there, she turns her gaze both inward to our psychic landscapes—drawing on the work of Sigmund Freud, Jordan Peele, Alfred Hitchcock, and bell hooks, to name a few—and outward, to our intersecting economic, environmental, medical, and political crises. Ultimately seeking to escape the Mirror World and chart a path beyond confusion and despair, Klein delivers a revelatory treatment of the way many of us think and feel now.
Daughter by Claudia Dey
To be loved by your father is to be loved by God.
So says Mona Dean–playwright, actress and daughter to a man famous for one great novel, and in fruitless pursuit of the next, whose needs and insecurities exert an inescapable pull and exact an immeasurable toll on the women of his family: Mona, her sister, her half-sister, their mothers. His infidelity destroyed Mona’s childhood, setting her in opposition to a cold, cruel stepmother who, though equally damaged, disdains her for being broken. Then, just as Mona is settling into her life as an adult and fledgling artist, he begins a new affair and takes her into his confidence. Mona delights–painfully, parasitically–in his attention. When he inevitably confesses to his wife, Mona is cast as the agent of disruption, punished for her father’s crimes and ejected from the family.
Mona’s tenuous stability is thrown into chaos. Only when she suffers an incalculable loss—one far deeper and more defining than family entanglements—can she begin supplanting absent love with real love. Pushed to the precipice, she must decide how she wants to live, what she most needs to say, and the risks she will take to say it.
Claudia Dey chronicles our most intimate lives with penetrating insight and devilish humour. A novel as volatile and far-reaching as its title, Daughter is an obsessive, blazing examination of the forces that drive us to become, to create and to break free.
River Mumma by Zalika Reid-Benta
Alicia has been out of grad school for months. She has no career prospects and lives with her mom, who won’t stop texting her macabre news stories and reminders to pick up items from the grocery store.
Then, one evening, the Jamaican water deity, River Mumma, appears to Alicia, telling her that she has twenty-four hours to scour the city for her missing comb.
Alicia doesn’t understand why River Mumma would choose her. She can’t remember all the legends her relatives told her, unlike her retail co-worker Heaven, who can reel off Jamaican folklore by heart. She doesn’t know if her childhood visions have returned, or why she feels a strange connection to her other co-worker Mars. But when the trio are chased down by malevolent spirits called duppies, they realize their tenuous bonds to each other may be their only lifelines. With the clock ticking, Alicia’s quest through the city broadens into a journey through time—to find herself and what the river carries.
River Mumma is a powerful portrayal of diasporic identities and a vital examination into ancestral ties. It is a homage to Jamaican storytelling by one of the most invigorating voices in Canadian literature.
Elsewhere by Yan Ge
A young woman bonds with an encampment of poets after a devastating earthquake. Against her better judgment, a college student begins to fall for an acquaintance who might be dead. And a Confucian disciple returns to the Master bearing a jar full of grisly remains. Weaving between reality and dreamy surreality, these nine stories wend toward elsewhere, a comforting, frustrating, just-out-of-reach place familiar to anyone who has ever experienced longing. Through it all Yan Ge’s protagonists peer thoughtfully at their own feelings of displacement—physical or emotional, the result of travel, emigration, or exile. Brilliant and irresistibly readable, Elsewhere explores the utility (or not) of art in the face of lonesomeness, quotidian, and spectacular.
This highly anticipated collection is further proof that Yan Ge is a generational literary talent, to be watched closely for decades to come.
North Woods by Daniel Mason
When two young lovers abscond from a Puritan colony, little do they know that their humble cabin in the woods will become the home of an extraordinary succession of human and nonhuman characters alike. An English soldier, destined for glory, abandons the battlefields of the New World to devote himself to growing apples. A pair of spinster twins navigate war and famine, envy and desire. A crime reporter unearths an ancient mass grave—only to discover that the earth refuse to give up their secrets. A lovelorn painter, a sinister con man, a stalking panther, a lusty beetle: As the inhabitants confront the wonder and mystery around them, they begin to realize that the dark, raucous, beautiful past is very much alive.
This magisterial and highly inventive novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist Daniel Mason brims with love and madness, humor and hope. Following the cycles of history, nature, and even language, North Woods shows the myriad, magical ways in which we’re connected to our environment, to history, and to one another. It is not just an unforgettable novel about secrets and destinies, but a way of looking at the world that asks the timeless question: How do we live on, even after we’re gone?
The Circle by Katherena Vermette
The concept was simple. You sit a bunch of people in a circle—everyone who hurt, everyone who got hurt, all affected—and let them share. Some people, it helped them heal, for sure. Others went in angry and left a different kind of angry. Learned how the blame belonged on the system, the history, the colonizer, the big things that were harder to change than one bad person.
The day that Cedar Sage Stranger has been both dreading and longing for has finally come: her sister Phoenix is getting out of prison.
The effect of Phoenix’s release cascades through the community. M, the young girl whom she assaulted, is triggered by the news. Her mother, Paulina, is worried and her cousin is angry—all feel the threat of Phoenix’s release. When Phoenix is seen lingering outside the school to catch a glimpse of her son, Sparrow, the police get a call to file a report—but the next thing they know, she has disappeared.
Amid accusations and plots for revenge, past grievances become a poor guide in a moment of danger, and the clumsy armature of law enforcement is no match for the community. Cedar and her and Phoenix’s mother, Elsie, continue down different paths of healing, while everyone in their lives form a circle around the chaos, the calm within the storm, and the beauty in the darkness.
Fierce, heartbreaking, and profound, Vermette’s The Circle is the third and final companion novel to her bestsellers The Break and The Strangers. Told from various perspectives, with an unforgettable voice for each chapter, the novel is masterfully structured as a Restorative Justice Circle where all gather—both the victimized and the accused—to take account of a crime that has altered the course of their lives. It considers what it means to be abandoned by the very systems that claim to offer support, how it feels to gain a sense of belonging, and the unanticipated cost of protecting those you love most.