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Book Reviews

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In Amy Bloom's 'Lucky Us,' sisters remain plucky in face of tragedy

"There is no such thing as a good writer and a bad liar," Amy Bloom wrote in her 1999 short story "The Story," which remains my favorite of all her work. It's a vivid bit of double vision, Bloom commenting on the process of storytelling even as she engages in it, and it suggests an edge, a...

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  • 'The Girls From Corona del Mar' explores friendship's evolution
    'The Girls From Corona del Mar' explores friendship's evolution

    In the opening chapter of Rufi Thorpe's debut novel, "The Girls From Corona del Mar," 15-year-old best friends Mia and Lorrie Ann get drunk on jug wine with the intention of breaking one of Mia's toes. Mia, the narrator, has just gotten an abortion, and she needs to get...

  • In 'The New Arabs,' millennials are key to remade Middle East
    In 'The New Arabs,' millennials are key to remade Middle East

    It's winter 2011, and I am living in Istanbul. I wander old streets in Turkey's cultural capital, past thousand-year-old mosques that were once churches, trying to understand the place that has become my home. Streets day and night are thronged by young Turks, flush from a thriving...

  • 'The Book of Life' a bewitching end to All Souls Trilogy
    'The Book of Life' a bewitching end to All Souls Trilogy

    Diana Bishop, a witch and Yale historian, and Matthew Clairmont, a vampire and Oxford biochemist, have been searching for Ashmole 782 (a.k.a. the Book of Life) through the first two books of Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy. Harkness has immersed and spellbound readers with her...

  • Ghosts soar in William Vollmann's hefty 'Last Stories'
    Ghosts soar in William Vollmann's hefty 'Last Stories'

    It has been a season of giants in the arts. In New York, Jeff Koons' "Split-Rocker," a 37-foot-tall foliage sculpture of a rocking horse made up of 50,000 flowering plants, has given Kara Walker's sphinx, a 35-foot-tall sculpture made of an estimated 40 tons of sugar, a real...

  • Two dog memoirs shed light on human nature
    Two dog memoirs shed light on human nature

    Dog memoirs are a tricky literary tradition. Writers are naturally solitary people, so it's no surprise they often form close bonds with such loyal, social animals and that, in turn, their pooches begin to inspire (or some might say dictate) their written work.

  • In 'White Beech,' Germaine Greer finds a forest with a view
    In 'White Beech,' Germaine Greer finds a forest with a view

    Like the rain forest it describes, Germaine Greer's 'White Beech' can be dense, less a memoir than a piece of natural and cultural history, but that sense of engagement is also one of its charms.

  • Edouard Levé's 'Works' is charged with wit and wonder
    Edouard Levé's 'Works' is charged with wit and wonder

    Edouard Levé's 'Works' is a slim volume of big ideas for artwork across a wide range of media. It's the least autobiographical of the prankster's books; nevertheless, a portrait of the artist emerges.

  • 'The Hundred-Year House' a juicy, gothic tale of art and love
    'The Hundred-Year House' a juicy, gothic tale of art and love

    "The Hundred Year House" is a big-hearted gothic novel, an intergenerational mystery, a story of heartbreak and a romance, all crammed into one grand Midwestern estate. Laurelfield, as it's called, has gone from family home to artist colony and back again. The people who stay...

  • 'Song of the Shank' gives poetic voice to a unique American musician
    'Song of the Shank' gives poetic voice to a unique American musician

    "Song of the Shank," Jeffery Renard Allen's epic and brilliant new novel about slavery and musical genius, is not an easy book to read. There is, for starters, the book's odd and sometimes confounding protagonist, based on a real man who is most often referred to in...

  • Bob Stanley's 'Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!' is crazy in love with pop music
    Bob Stanley's 'Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!' is crazy in love with pop music

    In 1954, Bill Haley shook, rattled and rolled. In 2003, Beyoncé went crazy in love. That's two pop stars, among the biggest of their time, using similar language (and similar grooves) to describe more or less the same thing.

  • A grave new world awaits in Edan Lepucki's 'California'
    A grave new world awaits in Edan Lepucki's 'California'

    In Edan Lepucki's debut novel, "California," young married couple Frida and Cal must navigate a post-apocalyptic landscape in a broken-down near-future. Lepucki focuses on the complexities of basic human emotions, testing allegiances and letting secrets unravel even the most...

  • Josh Weil's 'Great Glass Sea' an epic fantasy of brotherly bonds
    Josh Weil's 'Great Glass Sea' an epic fantasy of brotherly bonds

    A fantasy about an alternate near-future Russia, Josh Weil's "The Great Glass Sea" tells the moving and sensitive tale of two brothers caught up in cultural turmoil. The author's first novel after his much-lauded collection, "The New Valley," it often evokes the...

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