Monday, November 19, 2018

Three of my favorite novels of 2018 on Lake Effect - The Great Believers, The Winter Soldier, Virgil Wander

Since we have no events this week, I thought I'd use the Monday blog to call your attention to interviews with three authors who wrote books that I am hand-selling this holiday season. All three appeared on WUWM's Lake Effect.

Rebecca Makkai talked to Mitch Teich about The Great Believers, her family (sort of) saga set in Chicago in the 1980s and contemporary Paris. It is framed by two art exhibitions and centers on a group of gay men in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. Reviewers have noted that while there have been many novels focused on AIDS, few of them have the sweep of The Great Believers and Makkai notes that so much of American AIDS reporting centers on New York and San Francisco. But the Boswellians who loved The Great Believers (Lynn and Chris are also fans) also were transfixed by the great writing, the compelling characters, and the Chicago-iness of the story. This book was shortlisted for the National Book Award.

Listen to Mitch Teich's interview with Rebecca Makkai here.

I don't know if I would have read The Winter Soldier if the book had been plopped on my desk without an event scheduled. It's traditional historical fiction, set on the Eastern Front of World War I, and focused on a not-particularly-well-trained surgeon who is sent to an under-resourced church-turned-mobile-hospital. But being that that event was scheduled for the date of our in-store lit group and that the event was scheduled about two months after pub date, how could we not read the book and have Mason come talk to us? It turns out that everyone is loving this book and it fills a need for traditional, well-written historical fiction. Jane helped turn me on to this - no jumping around among POV (point of view) or time, traditional themes, not to gorey for delicate readers but gorey enough to show war's toll. I like to sell this as A Gentleman in Moscow meets Cutting for Stone. And lots of readers agree - it's been in and out of stock since publication.

Mitch Teich interviews Daniel Mason on Lake Effect.

The best novel that captures small town Wisconsin in 2018 is set in Minnesota. Tim, Lynn and I are completely captivated by Virgil Wander, the story of a struggling town on Lake Superior - the mine played out, the factory closed, so down on its heels that they are playing to call their annual festival "Hard Luck Days." Virgil himself is a town clerk and runs the struggling movie theater, whose secret pleasure is screening old films from an illegal cache for his friends. Into the town comes an elderly Norwegian looking for his lost son. That son is gone, but his widow and son are there, so he sticks around, flying intricately-constructed kites on the lakefront. And his visit helps set in motion a chain of events that changes the town forever. Leif Enger's Peace Like a River captured a lot of hearts and we're hoping Virgil Wander does the same. It might not be the right time for its release - one reviewer disparaged it by comparing the book to Garrison Keillor's writing. But I liked Lake Wobegon Days just fine, so maybe that was just a swipe at flyover country.

More from WUWM's interview with Leif Enger.

We're closed on Thursday, November 22 for Thanksgiving. Open regular hours Friday through Sunday.

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