Staff Suggestions February 2022

As we plod our way through these grey winter days, it seems each of us here at the store have turned to fiction for solace. But, where some of us have been reading about sunnier climes, Danielle has instead opted to double down on the colder side of things.

 

Ben Recommends

The Final Case by David Guterson

 

 

A girl dies one late, rainy night a few feet from the back door of her home. The girl, Abeba, was born in Ethiopia. Her adoptive parents, Delvin and Betsy Harvey—conservative, white fundamentalist Christians—are charged with her murder.

Royal, a Seattle criminal attorney in the last days of his long career, takes Betsy Harvey’s case. An octogenarian without a driver’s license, he leans on his son—the novel’s narrator—as he prepares for trial.

So begins The Final Case, a bracing, astute, and deeply affecting examination of justice and injustice—and familial love. David Guterson’s first courtroom drama since Snow Falling on Cedars, it is his most compelling and heartfelt novel to date.

 

The Matchmaker by Paul Vidich

 

 

Berlin, 1989.  Protests across East Germany threaten the Iron Curtain and Communism is the ill man of Europe.

Anne Simpson, an American who works as a translator at the Joint Operations Refugee Committee, thinks she is in a normal marriage with a charming East German. But then her husband disappears, and the CIA and Western German intelligence arrive at her door.

Nothing about her marriage is as it seems. She had been targeted by the Matchmaker—a high level East German counterintelligence officer—who runs a network of Stasi agents. These agents are his “Romeos” who marry vulnerable women in West Berlin to provide them with cover as they report back to the Matchmaker. Anne has been married to a spy, and now he has disappeared, and is presumably dead.

The CIA are desperate to find the Matchmaker because of his close ties to the KGB.  They believe he can establish the truth about a high-ranking Soviet defector. They need Anne because she’s the only person who has seen his face – from a photograph that her husband mistakenly left out in his office – and she is the CIA’s best chance to identify him before the Matchmaker escapes to Moscow. Time is running out as the Berlin Wall falls and chaos engulfs East Germany.

 


Rupert Recommends

The Library by Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen

 

 

Famed across the known world, jealously guarded by private collectors, built up over centuries, destroyed in a single day, ornamented with gold leaf and frescoes, or filled with bean bags and children’s drawings—the history of the library is rich, varied, and stuffed full of incident.

In The Library, historians Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen introduce us to the antiquarians and philanthropists who shaped the world’s great collections, trace the rise and fall of literary tastes, and reveal the high crimes and misdemeanors committed in pursuit of rare manuscripts. In doing so, they reveal that while collections themselves are fragile, often falling into ruin within a few decades, the idea of the library has been remarkably resilient as each generation makes—and remakes—the institution anew.

 

Bibliolepsy by Gina Apostol

 

 

Gina Apostol’s debut novel, available for the first time in the US, tells of a young woman caught between a lifelong desire to escape into books and a real-world revolution.

It is the mid-eighties, two decades into the kleptocratic, brutal rule of Ferdinand Marcos. The Philippine economy is in deep recession, civil unrest is growing by the day. But Primi Peregrino has her own priorities: tracking down books and pursuing romantic connections with their authors.

For Primi, the nascent revolution means that writers are gathering more often, and with greater urgency, so that every poetry reading she attends presents a veritable “Justice League” of authors for her to choose among. As the Marcos dictatorship stands poised to topple, Primi remains true to her fantasy: that she, “a vagabond from history, a runaway from time,” can be saved by sex, love, and books.

 


Danielle Recommends

Very Cold People by Sarah Manguso

 

 

For Ruthie, the frozen, snow-padded town of Waitsfield, Massachusetts, is all she has ever known. But this is no picturesque New England. Once “home of the bean and the cod, where Lowells speak only to Cabots, and Cabots speak only to God,” by the tail-end of the twentieth century it is an unforgiving place, awash with secrets.

Very Cold People tells Ruthie’s story through her eyes: from the shame handed down through her immigrant forebears and indomitable mother, to the violences endured by her high school friends, each suffering a fate worse than the last. For Ruthie, Waitsfield is a place to be survived–and a girl like her would be lucky to get out alive.

In her eagerly anticipated debut novel, Sarah Manguso has produced – with her characteristic precision – a masterwork on how very cold places make for very cold people: an ungilded portrait of girlhood at the crossroads of history and social class, and a pitiless look at an all-American whiteness.

 

Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au

 

 

A mother and daughter travel from abroad to meet in Tokyo: they walk along the canals through the autumn evenings, escape the typhoon rains, share meals in small cafes and restaurants, and visit galleries to see some of the city’s most radical modern art. All the while, they talk: about the weather, horoscopes, clothes, and objects, about family, distance, and memory. But uncertainties abound. Who is really speaking here—is it only the daughter? And what is the real reason behind this elliptical, perhaps even spectral journey?

At once a careful reckoning and an elegy, Cold Enough for Snow questions whether any of us speak a common language, which dimensions can contain love, and what claim we have to truly know another’s inner world.

 


Olivia Recommends

Violeta by Isabel Allende

 

 

Violeta comes into the world on a stormy day in 1920, the first girl in a family of five boisterous sons. From the start, her life will be marked by extraordinary events, for the ripples of the Great War are still being felt, even as the Spanish flu arrives on the shores of her South American homeland almost at the moment of her birth.

Through her father’s prescience, the family will come through that crisis unscathed, only to face a new one as the Great Depression transforms the genteel city life she has known. Her family loses all and is forced to retreat to a wild and beautiful but remote part of the country. There, she will come of age, and her first suitor will come calling . . .

She tells her story in the form of a letter to someone she loves above all others, recounting devastating heartbreak and passionate affairs, times of both poverty and wealth, terrible loss and immense joy. Her life will be shaped by some of the most important events of history:  the fight for women’s rights, the rise and fall of tyrants, and ultimately, not one, but two pandemics.

 

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

 

 

It’s 2017, and Olga and her brother, Pedro “Prieto” Acevedo, are boldfaced names in their hometown of New York. Prieto is a popular congressman representing their gentrifying Latinx neighborhood in Brooklyn, while Olga is the tony wedding planner for Manhattan’s power brokers.

Despite their alluring public lives, behind closed doors things are far less rosy. Sure, Olga can orchestrate the love stories of the 1 percent but she can’t seem to find her own. . . until she meets Matteo, who forces her to confront the effects of long-held family secrets.

Olga and Prieto’s mother, Blanca, a Young Lord turned radical, abandoned her children to advance a militant political cause, leaving them to be raised by their grandmother. Now, with the winds of hurricane season, Blanca has come barreling back into their lives.

 


Patti Recommends

Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson

 

 

In a first-class lounge at JFK airport, our narrator listens as Jeff Cook, a former classmate he only vaguely remembers, shares the uncanny story of his adult life—a life that changed course years before, the moment he resuscitated a drowning man.

Jeff reveals that after that traumatic, galvanizing morning on the beach, he was compelled to learn more about the man whose life he had saved, convinced that their fates were now entwined. But are we agents of our fate—or are we its pawns? Upon discovering that the man is renowned art dealer Francis Arsenault, Jeff begins to surreptitiously visit his Beverly Hills gallery. Although Francis does not seem to recognize him as the man who saved his life, he nevertheless casts his legendary eye on Jeff and sees something worthy. He takes the younger man under his wing, initiating him into his world, where knowledge, taste, and access are currency; a world where value is constantly shifting and calling into question what is real, and what matters. The paths of the two men come together and diverge in dizzying ways until the novel’s staggering ending.

 

Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel

 

 

Zoe is grieving for her high school best friend, murdered months before in her hometown in Florida. Hailey is rich, obsessed with the exploits of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears and wants to be a Warholian legend.

Together they rent a once-magnificent apartment from eccentric crime writer Beatrice Becks. With little to fill their time, they spend their nights twisting through Berlin’s club scene and their days hungover.

Soon inexplicable things start happening in the apartment and the two friends suspect they are being watched by Beatrice. Convinced that their landlord is using their lives as inspiration for her next thriller novel, they decide to beat her at her own game. The girls start hosting wild parties in the flat and quickly gain notoriety, with everyone clamouring for an invite to ‘Beatrice’s.’ But ultimately they find themselves unable to control the narrative and it spirals into much darker territory . . .

 


 

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