Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In this testament, written as a letter to his teen-aged son, Ta-Nehisi Coates attempts to explain what the false construct of race determines, what being considered black entails, and what it means to live a country where slavery and segregation have created mass inequities. Certain learned scholars have taken issue with some of Coates’ theories while others have called him a genius. Most agree that his words demand attention and that he’s an incredibly nuanced and exceptional writer. His genius is now literally acknowledged as he was recently awarded a 2015 MacArthur “Genius” grant. Regardless of how we see him, his sentence construction, insight, and tenor make the uncomfortable subject of race impossible to ignore.

In the early pages of the book, he notes, “I propose to take our countrymen’s claims of American exceptionalism seriously, which is to say I propose subjecting our country to an exceptional moral standard.” He then addresses his son,

“I write you in your fifteenth year. I am writing you because this is the year you saw Eric Garner choked to death for selling cigarettes; because you know now that Renisha McBride was shot for seeking help, that John Crawford was shot for browsing in a department store. . . And you know now if you did not before, that the police departments of your country have been endowed with the authority to destroy your body. . . Turn into a dark stairwell and your body can be destroyed. The destroyers will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.”

Some readers may wonder if Coates illuminates the problem too much; I assure you he does not, because his passion for the subject and his deep love for his son seize your attention and your heart. When Coates continues, his evocative words force the reader to look deeper.  

“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body – it is heritage. Enslavement was not merely the antiseptic borrowing of labor – it is not so easy to get a human being to commit their body against its own elemental interest. And so enslavement must be casual wrath and random manglings, the gashing heads and brains blown out over the river as the body seeks to escape. It must be rape so regular as to be industrial. There is no uplifting way to say this. I have no praise anthems, nor old Negro spirituals. The spirit and soul are the body and brain, which are destructible -- that is precisely why they are so precious.  And the soul did not escape. The spirit did not steal away on gospel wings. The soul was the body that fed the tobacco, and the spirit was the blood that watered the cotton, and these created the first fruits of the American garden. And the fruits were secured through the bashing of children with stovewood, through hot iron peeling skin away like husk from corn.”

The Atlantic where Coates is a national correspondent published an adaptation/excerpt from the book that I almost guarantee will make you buy the book. It has also devoted space in numerous issues to thoughts on this book. After you finish reading Between the World and Me, you may want to read these thoughts as I suspect that you, like I, will have had many conflicting thoughts as you wound your way through the book and seeing that others, too, were conflicted, will help you process this book that absolutely demands a second and probably at least a third reading. Also remember, as you read, that this book grew out of love:

“I love you, and I love the world, and I love it more with every new inch I discover. But you are a black boy, and you must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know.  Indeed, you must be responsible for the worst actions of other black bodies, which, somehow, will always be assigned to you. And you must be responsible for the bodies of the powerful – the policeman who cracks you with a nightstick will quickly find his excuse in your furtive movements.”

Summing it Up: I agree with Toni Morrison’s take on this book: “This is required reading.” Read it, then share it with others so you can talk about what we can do to hold ourselves to an exceptional moral standard. Coates doesn’t offer answers to how we solve this dilemma and that may frustrate readers. I’m grateful that he addresses our problems first and I hope that in forthcoming writing he’ll suggest solutions.

Note: Between the World and Me is on the long list for the National Book Award and is a finalist for the Kirkus Prize.

Rating: 5 stars   
Category: Five Stars, Gourmet, Nonfiction, Super Nutrition, Book Club
Publication date: July 8, 2015
What Others are Saying:
The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/james-baldwin-tanehisi-coates/399413/n (This includes links to numerous other comments and reviews.)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Water Museum by Luis Alberto Urrea

The thirteen stories in The Water Museum will make you laugh, cry, ponder, wonder, and exclaim. Urrea’s Pulitzer Prize finalist nonfiction work, The Devil’s Highway, and his historical sagas including The Hummingbird’s Daughter blend the poetic voice of his Mexican-American culture with his uncanny ear for dialogue. For that reason, I beg you, DON’T READ THIS BOOK! I read it and loved it, but now that I’ve heard Urrea speak and listened to some of his award-winning audios, I plan to “read” his other works via audio.Thus, my advice is that you listen to The Water Museum to hear Urrea embody the words.

The stories in this collection reflect the changing landscape of the American west and its immigrant communities. “Mountains Without Numbers,” the first story, sparely shows a disintegrating town in Idaho. “Is a town dead when the old men die, or when the children leave?” wonders a woman as she considers the past and Urrea skillfully ties the landscape to the tale.

The immediacy of the dialogue in “The National City Reparation Society” then immerses the reader in Junior’s world where he doesn’t feel comfortable at his white college or in the Mexican-American immigrant community where he grew up. Then the very short story, “Carnations” captures a universal world of love and grief that has no borders. Themes of class and cultural boundaries bounced about like a ping pong ball in my brain as the stories captivated me. That almost prepared me for the stomach-lurching impact of “Amapola” whose white, teenaged narrator falls in love with a beautiful, privileged Mexican girl. Just thinking about the last paragraphs of that tale have me reaching for something to coat my queasy stomach. It’s easy to see why the story won the Edgar Award.

The next entries returned me to themes of truth, kindness, loyalty, and grief and their pace allowed me to ponder. Then “The Sous Chefs of Iogua” grabbed me with its delightfully wry images of immigrants whose multiple Mexican restaurants weren’t attracting locals so they begin offering “espageti,” microwaved Hungry Man Italian meals, and turkey dinners covered with the funniest mashed potatoes ever appearing in print. This underlying humor allows Urrea to convey the difficulty of the relationships between long-time Anglo residents and Mexican immigrants in towns too small for them to ignore one another. This story alone dictates the necessity of listening to Urrea’s compelling voice.

“Welcome to the Water Museum” magically conjures a world in which students visit the titular water museum to see what the world was like when water flowed. As children suck on sour candies to stimulate the saliva in their mouths and thus to stave off their thirst, readers will find themselves preoccupied with thoughts of the future.

In the last story, “Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses,” a white man’s marriage to an Oglala Sioux woman over the objections of her family leads to an emotional climax only someone with Urrea’s chops can deliver with such impact and truth. Ending the book with such a powerful expression of love forces the reader to reexamine the previous stories and to contemplate Urrea's message. 

Summing it Up: Do not read this book; listen to Luis Alberto Urrea tell you these stories in his own often emotional, sometimes whimsical, and always powerful voice. His recording of The Water Museum just won an Earphone Award given by AudioFile to “exceptional titles that excel in narrative voice and style, characterizations, suitability to audio, and enhancement of the text.” That along with Urrea’s exceptional use of language, his love of and respect for his characters, and his ability to make a reader/listener enter into another world make this a “must listen.”

(In case you were wondering, Urrea is pronounced “oo-RAY-uh.”)

Rating: 5 stars   
Category: Fiction, Five Stars, Gourmet, Road Food, Tapas, Book Club
Publication date: April 7, 2015
Author Website: http://www.luisurrea.com/
Interview with the Author: Watch this interview with Bill Moyers to appreciate Luis Alberto Urrea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4lzdVWsiI4
What Others are Saying:

Monday, September 14, 2015

Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott by Jeannine Atkins

Little Woman in Blue conjures the world of Little Women’s Alcott sisters so vividly that readers will find themselves astonished to look up from the page and not be living in nineteenth-century Concord, Massachusetts. Jeannine Atkins’ first adult novel, after several children’s books including Becoming Little Women: Louisa May at Fruitlands, delivers a refreshing look at May Alcott, perhaps the least known of the Alcott sisters. Showing that May, portrayed as pampered Amy, the youngest of the Alcott sisters in Little Women, was in reality an accomplished artist and a contemporary of Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot, will surprise most readers. It’s difficult to decide whether Atkins’ rich portrayal of May Alcott as an indomitable artist or her adroit portrait of the natural world of nineteenth-century Concord is more compelling. Thankfully, Atkins skillfully weaves them both into a delightful novel that will appeal to fans of the wonder Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Papers.

The sibling rivalry between May and Louisa is palpable and Atkins illustrates the manner in which the strong-willed women love each other but often can’t grasp the other’s needs. After May returns from a stint teaching at a mental institution, Louisa has trouble grasping May’s yearning to return to her art. Louisa tells her:
“I can’t see the use of art, when beauty is right here.” Louisa took a notebook from her basket and propped it on her knees.

“But not everyone sees it.  Artists try to point out the ordinary splendors.” May borrowed paper and a pencil to sketch the pond and hill where Mr. Thoreau had lived for two years, two months, and two days. She even drew the cabin. The world seemed to turn quiet while she moved her hand.
Louisa glanced at her paper. “His little house is gone.”

“Can’t you see it?” May squinted at the pines and hemlocks.

“Across town, where it was hauled to store grain.”

“Look harder.”

“I liked him.”

“I know,” May touched her hand, then added a rowboat to the picture, showing the back of a man holding oars. The more she moved her pencil, the more shapes and hues she saw in the shadows. “A view like this seems like a message from the world. Drawing is my way to keep up my end of the conversation. I’ve missed it.”

The remarkable confluence of talent residing in their small neighborhood, where Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathanial Hawthorne all lived alongside Bronson Alcott and his family, is revealed via clever conversations and facts culled from diaries and journals. May’s romance with Julian Hawthorne, son of neighbor Nathanial, reflects the culture in which they lived. It’s expressed in his lack of support for her ambition when, upon his return from Paris and a visit to the Louvre, May asks him:
“How can I paint when I’ve seen prints borrowed from the Emersons but not a real brushstroke from Michelangelo’s hand? No one expects Louisa to write without having read great books.”

“Surely you’re not serious about art.”

“I hope you don’t say that because I’m a woman.”

“I don’t believe a single painting in the Louvre was made by one.”

When May reads her sister’s portrayal of her as “Amy,” the sister who forfeits her need to become an artist to marry and have a family, May is even more determined to become a successful artist and to have a family. May gives art lessons to earn money to supplement the meager Alcott family earnings and to take art lessons in Boston herself. She even gives Daniel Chester French lessons that allow him to begin his training as a sculptor.

Atkins documents May’s journey to self-discovery with a subtle grace that allows the reader to watch May grow as she leaves comfortable Concord for Europe when the success of Little Women earns Louisa the funds to pay for May to study there. This results in her becoming an accomplished artist garnering praise from the venerable John Ruskin, May becomes friends with Mary Cassatt and May’s still life gains admittance to the Salon, the coveted official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, before paintings by Cassatt and other women. May’s personal life flourishes, she falls in love, and she continues painting.
“That summer, May often painted in the garden, concentrating on passing light more than solid shapes, letting poppies spill off the page rather than stand in the center. She used the wrong end of a brush to scratch or scrape away paint to expose the white paper and suggest texture. The spaces made what she left more vivid.”

Jeannine Atkins’ novel, Little Woman in Blue, scrapes away what we thought we knew of Louisa May Alcott’s youngest sister and exposes the vivid life she lived as an accomplished artist and woman of the nineteenth century. It’s a vibrant rendering of a life lived with purpose during a time when women weren’t supported in following their dreams.

Summing it Up: Read this enchanting historical novel to embed yourself in the life of May Alcott, an artist we all should know. Fans of Girl with a Pearl Earring, Little Women, and The Luncheon of the Boating Party will want to select this for their book clubs. Little Woman in Blue is available as an original paperback and in a digital edition for e-readers making it a title book clubs might wish to choose immediately.

May Alcott's art: Top left: Orchard House, a watercolor of the Alcott family home before 1879; Middle Right: Westminster Abbey, watercolor, La Négresse, 1879, exhibited at the 1879 Paris Salon

Rating: 4 stars   
Category: Fiction, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Pigeon Pie, Super Nutrition, Book Club
Publication date: September 15, 2015
What Others are Saying:
Little Woman in Blue is an inspiring and engaging fictional portrait of the artist May Alcott, written with knowledge, sensitivity, and beauty. It is wonderful to see May Alcott gain the center of her own story, and inhabit it with such generosity and grace.”
—Harriet Scott Chessman, author of Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper

Library Journal: “Devotees of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women will be intrigued by this fictionalized biography of the women behind the characters.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Circling the Sun inhabits the early life of aviator Beryl Markham so astutely that it should prompt readers to immediately seek out Markham’s memoir, West with the Night, to learn the rest of her story. McLain, best known for her novel The Paris Wife, captures Beryl Markham’s childhood and early adult years honestly and compassionately. As a child growing up motherless and relatively untended in early twentieth-century Kenya, Beryl Clutterbuck learned to survive in a brutal land by observing her friend Kibbii and his tribe and her father’s training of racehorses. Her affinity for animals became both the thing that saved her and that which almost destroyed her as was the instance when a lion attacked her when she was twelve.
“I knew I had no chance at all. He would eat me here or drag me off to a glade or valley only he knew of, a place from which I’d never return.  The last thought I remember having was This is how it feels then. This is what it means to be eaten by a lion.” 

When her father has to sell the farm and relocate, then 16-year-old Beryl marries out of desperation to stay in her beloved land. McLain’s beautiful descriptions of the landscape and her objective rendering of young Beryl’s spicier activities keep the novel from devolving into a titillating soap opera as does the telling of the tale through Beryl’s own, resolute voice.

“When the March rains fell over the plains and the ragged face of the escarpment, six million yellow flowers cracked open all at once. Red-and-white butterflies, the ones that looked like peppermint sticks, flashed in twists against the sparkling air.
But in 1919, the rains didn’t come. Not the soaking spring storms when one inky cloud could levitate for hours spilling everything it had, and not the short daily November rains that winked on and off as if they ran on a system of pulleys. ”

As the youngest horse trainer ever licensed in Africa who leads several horses out of obscurity and previous injury to the winning of top races, Beryl befriends Karen Blixen (aka Isak Dinesen, author of Out of Africa) and falls in love with Blixen’s lover, big game hunter, Denys Fitch Hatton. She’s also linked with the visiting Edward, the Prince of Wales, and his brother Henry, in a flirtation that further mars her spotty reputation. Beryl’s romantic liaisons and marriages propel the story and keep it fresh while showing both her emotional fragility and growth.

McLain bookends Beryl’s story with her view from the cockpit as she soars and sputters across the Atlantic in her legendary 1936 solo flight thus allowing the reader to enter into both her journey and the reasons she was in the air. McLain’s Author’s Note is the perfect ending to the novel as it answers many of the questions that this reader simply had to know immediately. When McLain writes “Beryl was undoubtedly complicated – a riddle. a libertine. a maverick. a sphinx.” I nodded my head in agreement as I felt I knew Beryl Markham very well and agreed with McLain wholeheartedly. 

It's rare for both Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly to give their coveted star to such an accessible novel. That they did is a tribute to both McLain's powerfully evocative writing and to her ability to connect Markham's story with the average reader. I too give this five stars. When I read Circling the Sun I felt the heat of the African sun, I saw the ocean below me, I watched as banded colobus monkeys climbed through burlap sacking covered windows, I tasted the licorice and pear candies sent from England to compensate for Beryl's mother's abandonment, and I lived young Beryl's life. 

Summing it Up: Lions, poisonous snakes, mountains, airplanes, love affairs, and more invigorate the sweeping African landscape as Paula McLain’s portrait of young Beryl Markham soars above the changing land and mores of the early twentieth century. Read this book for a superbly written view of an amazing woman who did things 100 years ago that very few would attempt today. I thoroughly enjoyed The Paris Wife, but I adore Circling the Sun. 

Rating: 5 stars   
Category: Fiction, Five Stars, Pigeon Pie (Historical Fiction), Grandma’s Pot Roast, Super Nutrition, Book Club
Publication date: July 28, 2015
What Others are Saying:

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Drummond Girls by Mardi Jo Link

If you’re like most women I know, you have some “go-to” friends.  They’re the ones you call when your son’s in a car accident and you don’t know if he’ll make it through surgery, the ones you email when you’re bursting with good news that might sound like bragging to others, and the ones who tell you that you’re being just a tiny bit bitchy when you want everyone to do things your way. If you’re lucky you’ve known these women for many years and if you’re really fortunate, you’ve taken trips with them.

Trips with “the girls” are magic. Whether they’re college reunions, visits to each other’s homes, or luxury cruises in the Greek Islands, they’re magical because you laugh until your stomach hurts, you cry when you hear what a friend you haven’t seen in years has suffered, and you become more of the real self you were when you were seven. Mardi Jo Link’s The Drummond Girls: a Story of Fierce Friendship Beyond Time and Chance is the story of Link’s annual trips with seven of her friends to tiny Drummond Island, Michigan. But really, The Drummond Girls is your story, it’s my story, and it’s the story of every strong woman I know who couldn’t make it through life without her team, her posse, her stalwart friends.

The Drummond Girls begins in 1993 as Link walks out her door:

Mothers who hand sewed their kids’ clothes, who read used Jane Austen paperbacks and stenciled checkerboards and hearts onto their kitchen cupboards, did not go away on weekend benders. Not according to my husband they didn’t.

“This one does,” I told him, tossing long underwear, a disposable camera, and a Led Zeppelin cassette tape into a denim duffel bag.

It was early October; I was a thirty-one-year-old wife and mother of two, a bar waitress with a college degree, and getting into Jill’s red Fiero that morning was the most radical act I’d committed in years.  My older son was three, the younger fourteen months, and I’d rarely been apart from them for more than a few hours. And yet when Jill backed down my driveway, that duffel bag and I were in her front seat.

Link portrays her friends’ escapades with honesty, profanity, humor, and compassion. Her exceptional writing skills deliver this tale beyond the simple recounting of adventures to “you are there” depictions of inebriated driving over two-track roads, late night talks, and ancient sites that strike them dumb with awe.

Before us was an ancient place, a flat circle of silver and gold a half mile across and surrounded by florescent evergreens. The silver came from the concave, unbroken expanse of flat rock under our feet and so damp with dew, fog, or mist that it gave off a metallic sheen.  The poplar leaves, the grass blades, the yellow of fall-blooming wildflowers, and even the wings of birds and insects merged together in the sun, creating an airy layer of gold.

For once the wind was nonexistent and none of us spoke; cicadas celebrating that they were simply alive was the only sound. Bev took a breath and marched off in hiker mode; Mary Lynn stayed right next to Linda’s car, but she was just as awestruck by the sight as the rest of us were. If silver could be spun from rock and gold from grass, what else was possible on this enchanted island?
What else was possible was their evolving story that included divorce, death, happily ever after moments, worries about memory loss, and years of building a friendship by returning every year unless “pregnant or dead” that allowed them to survive it all. The possibilities of this enchanted island began as soon the eight women crossed the mighty Mackinac Bridge each year and became The Drummond Girls. Thankfully Mardi Jo Link invites her readers along on their ride across the bridge and onto their enchanted island.

Summing it Up: Buy this book to enter into a sacred, yet sometimes wild and crazy friendship with a group of real women who aren’t perfect. Read it to think about your own friendships then put it down and call that friend you haven’t seen in a while and make plans for your own trip as this book will make you yearn to rekindle relationships. If you haven’t read Link’s memoir Bootstrapper, read it too as you’ll want to learn more of her story. If you’re thinking of taking your own road trip, Link narrates the audio version so download it and head to your own enchanted place with your best girlfriends.

Note: Link will be speaking and signing throughout the Midwest and you might just be able to catch her and her dry humor.  Tomorrow she's speaking at "Booked for Lunch" at the Perry Hotel in Petoskey, MI and I hear there may be one or two tickets left.  

Caveat: Mardi Jo Link is my friend. I’ve never been to Drummond Island with her and the “girls,” but I have enjoyed meals, wine, and conversation with her. I believe that every reviewer needs to tell readers if he or she knows an author. That said, I also believe that reading Mardi Jo Link’s The Drummond Girls will give readers a glimpse of what it’s like to be her friend and that’s a gift no one should turn down.

Rating: 5 stars (Seriously, who could rate this kind of friendship any less than five stars?)

Category: Five Starts, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Nonfiction, Road Food, Soul Food, Book Club

Publication date: July 14, 2015

Author Website:http://www.mardijolink.com/

Take the quiz - Which Drummond Girl are you?: http://astringaroundmyfinger.com/which-drummond-girl-are-you/

What Others are Saying:

Library Journal: "Captures the lives of blue-collar boomers, this book is great for book clubs, and Link knows the territory."

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Little Paris Bookshop’s main character’s name Jean Perdu, or “lost John” in English, hints of the unmoored life that Perdu drifts through both literally and figuratively on his Paris bookshop on a barge floating in the Seine. Perdu, stuck in a time warp since his beloved Manon left him 21 years previously, has never opened the letter Manon left behind. Instead of living life, Perdu advises others via his appropriately named Literary Apothecary store. While unable to solve his own difficulties, Perdu readily diagnoses his customers’ troubles and always prescribes the perfect book to heal them. Monsieur Perdu considers that “a book is both medic and medicine at once.” Readers will enjoy the titles Perdu suggests particularly those like The Elegance of the Hedgehog that many will remember.

When sad, but beautiful Catherine moves into Perdu’s apartment building, he falls for her, tries to solve her woes, and at her urging opens Manon’s letter only to learn that he had not heeded Manon’s request for him to join her in Provence where she was dying two decades previously. While simultaneously grieving and realizing the folly of lost opportunity, Perdu decides to untether his book barge and head south to Avignon. Another neighbor, a young, acclaimed author suffering from writer’s block, joins the journey and along the way they meet others in need of healing books and soon begin to heal themselves.

The Little Paris Bookshop begins unsteadily with cumbersome romantic scenes and descriptive passages that are beautiful yet often come between the reader and the story’s pace. Once Perdu and his fellow traveler Max Jordan set sail, though, the book also catches the wind and begins to soar. As Perdu and Jordan allow themselves to shrug their burdens and enter life in small river towns along the Seine and the Rhone, the book finds a harmony similar to that which the men enjoy. Clever and kind characters join the journey providing lush descriptions of food, river towns, and vineyards along the way. Their visit to Cuisery, the French village of books, a town packed with bookstores, will beckon bibliophiles to make travel plans immediately.

The book was first published in Germany where author Nina George has published 26 novels, over a hundred short stories, and more than 600 newspaper columns. Readers must visit her book site: http://www.readitforward.com/book-apothecary/ where a series of clicks will lead inquiring minds to book cures for what ails them. For fun, I clicked on “Discouraged” then on “General Malaise and Ennui” and found the perfect cures in books including The Enchanted April and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Such cleverness and intricate knowledge of books is indicative of the power of reading that lies within this gem.

A bonus is the last section, aptly titled “Perdu’s Emergency Literary Pharmacy” that contains a list of book titles:
“Fast-acting medicines for minds and hearts affected by minor or moderate emotional turmoil. To be taken in easily digestible doses (between five and fifty pages) unless otherwise indicated and, if possible, with warm feet and/or with a cat on your lap.”

Summing it Up: The Little Paris Bookshop is an ode to the healing power of reading, travel, food, humor, forgiveness, and love. Book lovers won’t be able to resist its charm.

Rating: 4 stars
Category: Fiction, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Soul Food, Book Club

Publication date: June 23, 2015

What Others are Saying:

Monday, July 6, 2015

As Night Falls by Jenny Milchman

As Night Falls is a thriller featuring evil Nick and his very large fellow inmate, Harlan, who escape from prison then break into a remote hilltop home in northern New York State to seek refuge and get supplies to trek to Canada. If I hadn’t read the book in an advance copy earlier, I’d have wondered if Milchman had mimicked the infamous recent breakout of two inmates from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, NY.  But no, this like Milchman’s two previous mysteries, is entirely the product of her very clever imagination. The book is, however, even more intriguing as we’re reminded of the details of the search near Dannemora when we enter As the Night Falls fictional search in the deep winter in the Adirondacks.

Much more than a simple prison escape simmers as homeowner Sandy Tremont and her husband Ben, a wilderness guide, sit down for dinner while their teen daughter, Ivy, sulks upstairs. When the escapees forcefully enter their home, neither Sandy nor Ben suspects that Nick has any connection to their family. All they see is that Nick is willing to do anything to escape and that he enjoys their terror. That large, strong Harlan willingly does everything Nick requests makes the duo even more frightening. As Nick’s link to the Tremont family is slowly revealed, he becomes even more alarming. Exposing any of the clues to their connection would diminish your enjoyment of this tale so I won't include them in this review.

The story’s third-person narration alternates between the viewpoints of escapee Nick, homeowner and counselor Sandy, and her daughter Ivy. This approach makes the relationships build gradually as the suspense simmers. It also allows secrets to remain hidden until the reader needs to know them.

It’s not often that a criminal and a dog become the stars of a book but rescue dog, McLean, known as Mac, is more than just a bystander and Harlan, is also more than his limited intellect makes him seem. Rarely does this reader spend so much of a book cheering for and hoping that a dog will survive, but Mac inspires that concern. Mac is named in honor of Edie, the wonderful rescue dog who reigns at one of my favorite places, McLean & Eakin Books in Petoskey, MI.

Milchman’s Cover of Snow was one of my favorite mysteries of 2014. Each of her three titles provides deep psychological insights, glimpses of isolation, and cunning mysteries to solve. I can’t wait to read her next one.  

Summing it Up: As Night Falls is a book you’ll want to read in one sitting then think about for days. Mysteries aren’t always books you want to discuss, but Milchman’s titles make you long for a fellow reader to help you ponder the “whys” of her characters’ actions. Not only is this a mystery that will have you flipping pages to find out the conclusion, it’s also one that will make you contemplate nature and nurture. Pick this up for your book club and watch the discussion soar.

Catch Jenny Milchman on her extended US tour. She’ll be appearing, reading and signing throughout the country in the coming months. http://jennymilchman.com/tour/bring-on-the-night-2015

Rating: 4 stars   

Category: Mysteries and Thrillers, Fiction, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Book Club

Publication date: June 30, 2015

Author’s Website: http://jennymilchman.com/

What Others are Saying:

Publishers Weekly: (Caution: this contains a spoiler) http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-553-39481-8