Staff Pick

In the Midst of Winter (Atria, $28), by master storyteller Isabel Allende, begins on a cold and snowy day in Brooklyn. After a traffic accident brings them together, Richard Bowmaster and Evelyn Ortega discover they’re connected by a dark secret. This also involves Lucia Maraz, Richard’s tenant and colleague, who he turns to for help after the incident. Owing to circumstances, our three protagonists, plus one dog, find themselves becoming closer while going to extraordinary lengths to hide their secret. As Allende narrates their various pasts, it becomes clear that each of them faces a personal winter, living a life frozen in place. Richard is a professor who believes the great passions of his life have come and gone. He maintains strict order to keep his regrets under control. Lucia, despite the struggles and disappointments she endured in her native Chile, still searches for happiness in the unlikeliest of places. Evelyn is a refugee from the violence in Guatemala, where she was robbed of family and future. Together this trio discovers, as Albert Camus wrote, an “invincible summer” within that slowly melts the frost enshrouding their lives and opens them to renewed hope and love. This is a beautiful story that will see you through all the seasons to come.

In the Midst of Winter: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501178139
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Atria Books - October 31st, 2017

Staff Pick

When asked, Haris Abadi describes himself as an Iraqi and an American. He means that he was born in Iraq but traded his first identity for American citizenship after working as an interpreter for the occupying American forces. Somewhere in the transaction, the two loyalties canceled each other out and Haris lost track of himself. As Dark at the Crossing (Knopf, 25.95) opens, Haris is in Antep, Turkey (“a city with two names and three meanings”), hoping to regain a sense of purpose by joining the struggle against the al-Assad regime in Syria. But the border is closed, and Elliot Ackerman’s powerful and poignant second novel follows his protagonist’s efforts to find a way across. As Haris faces the disappearance of his fixer; is betrayed, robbed, and beaten by a guide; and tours the Syrian ward of the local hospital, where both the dying and the dead are stashed in the morgue, his experiences give a close, yet panoramic view of the Syrian civil war and its regional fallout. At the same time, Haris’ recurrent flashbacks of the interrogations and searches he participated in with the Americans in Iraq reflect that he is also stuck at an internal psychological border. So, too, is Daphne, a Syrian refugee Haris befriends. Certain that her daughter is still alive, she wants to return to Aleppo and find her. Incredibly, though the conflict has left Daphne with nothing, she feels that “war can be a blessing… If you’re trapped, its destruction can free you.” Ackerman, a former Marine who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and has covered Syria since 2013, is unflinching in his depiction of what war can do.

Dark at the Crossing: A novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101947371
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Knopf - January 24th, 2017

Staff Pick

Two years after the magical Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights, set in Fairyland, Salman Rushdie is back with another, much more realistic novel. The Golden House (Random House, $28.99) begins on the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, when an uncrowned seventy- something king, who calls himself Nero Golden, arrives in New York from a faraway country. With his three motherless sons, Nero takes possession of the palace he would call his home. Having arrived under mysterious circumstances, the family also assumes new identities. They take Roman names, trying to reinvent themselves and keep their past hidden, all the while battling their own demons. The youngest son, D, is conflicted over his sexual identity; Apu longs to go back home; and Petya develops agoraphobia. The Goldens’ story is told by their neighbor, René, who becomes fascinated with the family and the various goings-on surrounding them. He gets pulled into their life of mystery, money, intrigue, drama, and crime. Then it all abruptly ends eight years later with the election of “The Joker” as president. Exploring the nature of good and evil and our capacity to change and adapt, Rushdie has loaded this novel with parallels between our world and the one the Goldens live in. “Clowns become kings, old crowns lie in the gutter. Things change. It’s the way of the world.”

The Golden House: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399592805
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Random House - September 5th, 2017

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