Staff Pick

One of the most talked about books this autumn, and my favorite, was My Absolute Darling (Riverhead, $27), by Gabriel Tallent. Shocking and unsettling, at times difficult to read, the novel follows fourteen-year-old Turtle Alveston, who feels more at home in nature than she does with her survivalist and damaged father, as she searches for freedom and fights for her soul. Roaming the woods one night, wondering if her father would be able to find her, she meets two lost teenage boys and guides them safely out. And that is the moment she starts questioning her home life. The way Tallent brings you steadily into Turtle’s mind makes you almost feel her pain. He manages to capture her deepest thoughts, her internal struggle, her will to survive. Obviously suffering from Stockholm syndrome, she debates with herself over whether to stay or leave, doubting her worth every step of the way. But she fights and she survives. She is the kind of girl, brave and determined, with whom readers are almost duty-bound to fall in love. Tallent grew up in Mendocino and spent a lot of time outside. His love for the region is evident in Turtle’s view of the place and Mendocino itself is a strong character in the book. This is Tallent’s debut novel. And what a remarkable debut it is!

My Absolute Darling: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735211179
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Riverhead Books - August 29th, 2017

Staff Pick

Friendships seldom get the sustained literary treatment that romances do, but Claire Messud’s insightful novel The Burning Girl (W.W. Norton, $25.95) shows that these relationships strike as deep, stir as many emotions, and do as much to shape a person, for better or worse. They can have special force when formed early in life, and Messud’s protagonists, Julia and Cassie, are best friends from nursery school to roughly seventh grade. Narrating the friendship and its aftermath, Julia, the one who takes paths already there rather than striking out into untrodden territory—the one who sets limits—insists that she and Cassie are as close as sisters. Their two families never mesh, however, and Julia comes to realize that her notion of “home” is not Cassie’s. Much of Cassie’s home life is guesswork, and while Julia does that work, her version of Cassie is partly made up; at times Cassie seems like one of the characters Julia, an aspiring actress, inhabits on stage. Messud uses the inherently self-dramatizing period of adolescence as a lens to view more difficult questions of how well any two people can know each other, and she brilliantly demonstrates how the typical rites of passage—fantasizing about an alternative family, surviving junior high cliques—can suddenly yield “one of those events that that was little and big at the same time,” bringing about the kind of understanding that a person never forgets.

The Burning Girl: A Novel Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9780393635027
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - August 29th, 2017

Staff Pick

In John le Carré’s new novel, A Legacy of Spies (Viking, $28), his hero, Peter Guillam, former spymaster and erstwhile protegé to George Smiley, finds himself in the unfamiliar territory of post-Cold War England. Peter has been summoned out of his retirement on a farm in Brittany by descendants of his previous masters in the Circus. Their agenda? To make Peter answerable for his supposed crimes against the progeny of his late colleague and friend, Alec Leamas, who now accuses Peter of complicity in the death of his father. In a way, le Carré continues to litigate the moral complexity of the Cold War after the fact, but he now has one more tool in his literary arsenal: the distance afforded by time. And this allows him to tell a compelling story about the human casualties of the Cold War resulting from the choices we have to make in the name of duty and country.

A Legacy of Spies: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735225114
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Viking - September 5th, 2017

Pages