Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How did that display happen? Lauren Fox recommendations

Jane and I have been taking our show on the road this fall, most recently at the Lynden Sculpture Garden for book club night. Our featured speaker was Lauren Fox, whose Days of Awe has been part of our book club brochure for its paperback release. But Fox wore two hats, as not only did she read and discuss her new book, she also offered recommendations. Her picks were so successful that we decided to do a featured table of them.

a. Kindred, by Octavia Butler. Fox's friend Janis (a former bookseller) recommended this story of a woman who goes back and forth in time from the present to the antebellum South. She thought that the book probably had an influnce on Colson Whitehead's newest, The Underground Railroad. Polly Morris from the Lynden noted that they use Butler's short fiction in some of their development work.

b. The Vacationers, by Emma Straub. Fox's favorite of Straub's three novels is about a dysfunctional family in Majorca. You don't have to sell us - we even had a display featuring The Vacationers beach accoutrement set. Straub's mom has a lot of connections to the Milwaukee's North Shore. We had a great event with the Straub the younger for Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures. Daniel's match of sorts was Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies, another story about a very complicated marriage.

c. The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer. Fox noted this is the kind of epic novel, the story of two Hungarian brothers in World War II, that you can really lose yourself in. I hope a lot of folks who read All the Light You Cannot See read this amazing novel afterwards. I also used to sell it to folks who loved Cutting for Stone. And here's another fun but useless coincidence - Orringer was the special guest at one of our previous book club nights. And many of us (including our buyer, Jason, are anxiously awaiting a novel novel from this talented author).

d. All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews. This autobiographical novel of a struggling writer dealing with her sister's depression was probably the best received book of the night. It was my favorite book of 2014 and boy does it resonate with a lot of people. I should also note that this is the novel that more people come back to me and thank me for the recommendation afterwards. It's so powerful and shockingly funny too. Hey, I even hand-sold one to a famous author and got a nice note afterwards. I paired this with one of Jane's picks, Our Souls at Night, from Kent Haruf.

e. The Stolen Child, by Keith Donohue. Fox's husband is Irish and this story of a baby who is stolen by Changelings is inspired by the work of Yeats, the classic Irish poet. I guess all I'm saying here is that it has cultural relevance. it also has Milwaukee relevance too as I still think of The Stolen Child as the book that the old Brookfield Schwartz Bookshop couldn't stop selling. I paired this with Chigozie Obioma's The Fishermen, because I think that novel reads much like a folktale.

f. Falling to Earth, by Kate Southwood. This is a novel about Marah, Illinois, which stood in the path of one of the worst tornadoes in recent history, if by recent you include 1925. But this family story shows that the natural disaster is only the beginning of their troubles. Southwood was actually a former featured author for the Women's Speaker Series at the Lynden. I slotted this book after a war novel, Louis DeBerniere's The Dust That Falls to Dreams, because these books are both tragic and close in time in their settings. I am also reminded of that old novel about the Johnstown Flood, In Sunlight, In a Beautiful Garden, by Katherine Cambor. Hey, it's still available!

g. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro.  Fox described this book as the story of three people living in a boarding school who find out they are clones whose organs are harvested for other people. It's also a complicated love triangle. It's Ishiguro's most popular novel after The Remains of the Day. We had an interesting discussion about whether you're supposed to know up front about their strange fate, or should you be surprised. In some ways, the setup reminds me of the new version of Westworld. By saying I paired the book with Jessica Chiarella's And Again gives away the twist, but reading just about any review will do the same. So if you want to read Never Let Me Go, put away your phone and dig in.

And of course we'd be remiss if we didn't recommend Days of Awe, a powerful and very funny story about friendship, family, and loss.

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