Neshama’s Choices for April 29th

The titles and links below will direct you to print copies when available. Click on the title to see all available formats, including recorded versions and eBooks.

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The Book of Love by Kelly Link 

Three teenagers come back from the dead to their small hometown of Loveland on the New England Coast. Why weren’t they missed? Because the powers that be—mysterious figures who can open doors between worlds—have hypnotized everyone to think they were at a special music program in Ireland and are just home for the Christmas holidays. The three are members of a band called My Two Hands Both Knowe You—an example of the quirky language that pops up throughout this amazing book. We meet their families as well as many supernatural shape-shifting characters. A vicious power struggle tests these kids and their families and friends to the utmost. Here’s just one detail among many: Mo who’s Black, has a mother who writes very successful romances and she’s erected statues of Black women throughout the town. Magic prevails, both good and evil, in many forms. 

You Only Call When You're in Trouble by Stephen McCauley 

The title refers to Cecily’s relationship with her gay Uncle Tom, who’s served as a father figure throughout her life. This time she’s undergoing investigation for inappropriate behavior at the college where she teaches. Yes, she should have picked up the cues earlier, but there was a steamy kiss, no matter who initiated it— you get the picture. What that administration did as well. Tom has troubles of his own. A perfect tiny house he designed is being challenged by his imperious client who wants to add another level to it. Cecily’s mother, a wild card, finally reveals the identity of her daughter’s father. Ahh, family dysfunction—how I love it, especially when the characters are just (for the most part) trying their best and the denouement is satisfying, if not what everyone had hoped for.  Sweet and funny. 

Vessel of Promises by Stephen Cowan 

Subtitled A Bookish Fable. A kids’ book dedicated to libraries and illustrated by the incomparable Ed Young—his last work. What does this female version of Noah do when the river keeps rising? She builds a floating house and fills it with treasures—yes, books. And when the water recedes, there they are, the promises she’d protected. Take a look and float through the exquisite images and calligraphy that bring home a resounding message. 

The Last Fire Season by Manjula Martin 

Subtitled A Personal and Pyronatural History. Most of us remember all too vividly the forest fires that erupted throughout Northern California just as COVID was setting in. The author, Martin, lives in a little house in the woods and has a deep relationship with the land, so it was particularly terrifying for her to be surrounded by all those tall trees. Another dimension: she has chronic pain from a botched medical procedure. Damaged body, damaged land—how to deal with prospective despair? Martin investigates how we got here (dreadful land “management” practices spurred on by capitalism) and potential remedies (harnessing “good fire” that the original inhabitants of the land practiced with success). Another example of the kind of nonfiction book that makes my heart sing: passion, personal testimony, and deep research all eloquently presented here.